New research into meal timing suggests that when we eat may influence cardiovascular health. Research up until this point has focused on what we eat and how much. This study is different in that it looks into meal timing as a factor.
Heart health is at the forefront of importance, with diseases of the cardiovascular system killing more Americans each year than any other cause. Research findings of this type suggest that much of what contributes to diseases of the heart may be modifiable. They may even pave the way for heart-healthy guidelines of the future that consider meal timing as a way to avoid risk.
The study followed the eating habits of 112 healthy women with a median age of 33. It was conducted at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physics and Surgeons in New York.
Researchers asked study participants to track how much, what, and when they ate for one week at baseline and again after a year. The data was collected by participants on their smartphones with an app developed by researchers for the study. Researchers then used this data to calculate the association between cardiovascular health and the timing of meals.
To examine participants' cardiovascular health at baseline, researchers looked at seven modifiable risk factors. Called Life’s Simple Seven, these measures established by the American Heart Association are blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, physical activity levels, diet, weight, and smoking status. Each of these measures is considered modifiable through lifestyle change. With these measures in mind, each participant was assigned a cardiovascular health score.
The study revealed that those who eat more calories after 6 PM tended to have worse cardiovascular health scores. For every 1% increase in calories consumed past 6 PM, cardiovascular health scores declined. Notably, body mass index and blood pressure tended to be elevated, and blood sugar levels seemed to be poorly controlled in those who consumed more calories later in the day.
Although the study needs to be replicated in larger and more diverse populations, it does have value as a foundation for further study.
The above video, from Cognito, goes into detail about risk factors and how they contribute to non-communicable diseases. These are important considerations as someday meal timing may be considered a modifiable risk factor.