The Timing of Meals Can Affect the Risk of Vascular Disease

A new study shows that aligning meals with natural circadian rhythms and observing a long nightly fast can greatly benefit cardiovascular health, especially in women. Our diet plays a crucial role in our overall well-being and life expectancy. The quantity, quality, and timing of our meals all have significant impacts.

Humans, like other animals, have innate circadian rhythms that synchronize our bodies with the day and night cycle. These genetic programs control various biological processes, including food metabolism. In our fast-paced modern world, our natural rhythms can be easily disrupted. This disruption may have serious implications for our cardiovascular health. To gain a deeper understanding of this connection, a comprehensive study analyzed data from a vast group of over 100,000 individuals.

After following the participants for over 7 years, it was found that only around 2,000 cardiovascular events occurred. This might seem low considering the size of the group, but it can be explained by the fact that the participants were relatively young, with an average age of 42.6 years. It is also worth noting that the majority of the participants were women (79%).

Interestingly, younger participants, students, and unemployed individuals were more likely to report eating their first and last meals at later times. These “late eaters” were also more frequently single, drinkers, and smokers, and they had higher levels of physical activity on average. In summary, it is not surprising that when we are young and active, we tend to engage in late-night activities and have less regular sleeping patterns. These findings were in line with expectations.

The study revealed that delaying the first meal of the day by an hour was linked to a 6% rise in cardiovascular disease risk, even when accounting for various factors. Surprisingly, the timing of the last meal did not exhibit a significant association. However, when examining cerebrovascular diseases, the pattern reversed. While the time of the first meal was not significant, consuming later last meals was associated with an elevated risk.

A study examined the impact of meal timings on the risk of cardiovascular diseases. When comparing different time frames, it was found that having a meal between 8 and 9 pm increased the risk by 19%, while having a meal after 9 pm increased the risk by 28%. Interestingly, when looking at specific types of cardiovascular diseases, the increased risk only applied to cerebrovascular diseases and not coronary heart diseases.

Further analysis revealed that these associations were stronger for women compared to men. Specifically, for women, having meals later in the day was significantly associated with a higher risk of overall cardiovascular diseases and cerebrovascular diseases. However, there was no significant association between meal timings and cardiovascular diseases in men. Conversely, when looking at coronary heart diseases, the association was significant in men but not in women.

The research showed that nighttime fasting reduces the risk of cerebrovascular disease. Each additional hour of fasting lowers the risk by 7%. No similar association was found for coronary heart disease or overall cardiovascular disease (CVD). The ideal time between the last meal and bedtime is four hours, which lowers the risk of CVD. These findings align with existing research on time-restricted eating, which has been shown to improve cardiometabolic health markers like blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and body weight. The timing of the daily fast also plays a role, suggesting that starting and ending meals earlier may be beneficial.

These findings highlight the importance of considering meal timings, particularly in relation to specific types of cardiovascular diseases and gender differences.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Dietary circadian rhythms and cardiovascular disease risk in the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort