Small adjustment in eating times could pay off big in cardiometabolic risk

December 12, 2018

The American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2018 held in Chicago was the site of a presentation of research that revealed a benefit for consuming the majority of one’s calories earlier, rather than later, in the day.

“Recently, the American Heart Association released a statement highlighting the need for population studies to clarify the association between meal timing and cardiometabolic risk, due to the potential of intentional eating with attention to timing of intake to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk,” Nour Makarem, PhD, of Columbia University and colleagues write. “We hypothesized that consuming a greater proportion of daily energy intake in the evening would be associated with higher body adiposity, glucose regulation indicators, and blood pressure.”

For the American Heart Association-funded investigation, Dr. Makarem and colleagues analyzed data from 12,708 participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, which included men and women between the ages of 18 to 76. On average, subjects in the study consumed about 35.7% of their daily calories after 6 p.m.

The researchers observed an increase in risk factors for diabetes, including fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance in association with each 1% increase in the number of daily calories consumed later than 6 p.m. Among the 56.6% of the participants who consumed more than 30% of their calories after 6 p.m., there was a 23% higher risk of developing hypertension and a 19% greater risk of becoming prediabetic in comparison with the risks experienced by those who consumed less than 30% of their daily intake after 6 p.m.

The current investigation is the first population-based study of U.S. Hispanics to determine that consuming more calories in the evening may be associated with an increase in the development of cardiovascular disease risk factors. "There is increasing evidence that when we eat is important, in addition to what we eat and how much we eat," noted Dr. Makarem, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Medical Center. "In our study we show that if you eat most of your calories before 6 p.m., you may have better cardiovascular health. Your meal timing matters and eating earlier in the day may be an important strategy to help lower the risk for heart disease."


Tip #1

Food consumed earlier in the day should be nutritious and appealing. Feeling deprived can lead to late-night binges.

Tip #2

Keep evening meals simple. Elaborate meals take longer to prepare, which can delay eating times, particularly for those of us who are employed during the day.

Tip #3

If you must eat after 6:00 p.m., opt for lighter fare. Plant-based meals are lower in calories and healthier than traditional Western “meat and potatoes.” Something as simple as a cup of broth may be all one needs to feel satisfied.

Tip #4

For those who associate evening television-watching with snacking, try taking up another pastime. Mild forms of exercise, such as tai chi or stretching, are healthful and relaxing evening activities. (Be advised, however, that for some people, vigorous exercise in the evening can interfere with the ability to fall asleep.)

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