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Later Meal Times Linked to Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Updated: May 15




Eating late at night can have serious consequences for your health, not only increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and acid reflux, but also impairing your memory and cognition.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world according to the Global Burden of Disease study, with 18.6 million annual deaths in 2019, of which around 7.9 are attributable to diet.


  • When you eat late, you disrupt your sleep quality and may experience weird dreams.

  • You also raise your blood pressure if you eat dinner after 8 pm, according to some studies.

  • Furthermore, you may feel more hungry the next morning, because eating late produces more glucose and a hormone called "ghrelin" that stimulates your appetite, leading to weight gain.


The hormone ghrelin, which controls our appetite, and the hormone leptin, which tells our brain we are full, were affected by eating later. This made the subjects feel hungrier when they were awake. They also used up calories more slowly and had changes in their fat tissue genes. These changes made it easier for them to store fat and gain weight.


A recent study suggests that eating breakfast earlier can reduce the risk of developing heart problems, regardless of other lifestyle factors.


  • The study used data from 103,389 people who reported their meal times and health outcomes over a 10-year period.

  • The researchers found that every hour delay in breakfast or dinner was associated with a 5% and 4% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively.

  • The findings were independent of other factors such as calorie intake, physical activity, smoking, and sleep duration.

  • The researchers speculated that eating earlier may help synchronize the body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation.


The study suggests that adjusting meal times may be a simple and effective way to improve cardiovascular health, especially for people who are at higher risk due to genetics or medical conditions.


Graphical abstract from Late Isocaloric Eating Increases Hunger, Decreases Energy Expenditure, and Modifies Metabolic Pathways in Adults with Overweight and Obesity.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 34, no. 10, Oct. 2022, pp. 1486-1498.e7
Graphical abstract from Late Isocaloric Eating Increases Hunger, Decreases Energy Expenditure, and Modifies Metabolic Pathways in Adults with Overweight and Obesity.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 34, no. 10, Oct. 2022, pp. 1486-1498.e7


What Time You Eat Makes a Difference


Chrononutrition is a new dimension of nutrition that takes into account not only what you eat, but also when you eat it. Chrononutrition is a term that refers to the relationship between food, metabolism, meal timing, and the body's circadian rhythm.


  • The circadian rhythm is the internal clock that regulates various biological processes, such as sleep, body temperature, hormones, and appetite.

  • According to chrononutrition, eating in sync with the circadian rhythm can have positive effects on health, such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, improving sleep quality, and aiding weight loss.

  • Chrononutrition also suggests that eating within a restricted window of time, preferably earlier in the day, can help optimize the body's metabolic functions and prevent disruptions in the circadian rhythm.


Chrononutrition is not the same as intermittent fasting, which involves prolonged periods of food restriction that may ignore the body's natural cycles.

  • Chrononutrition is based on scientific evidence that shows how different nutrients are processed differently by the body at different times of the day.

  • For example, carbohydrates are better tolerated in the morning than in the evening, and protein intake can affect melatonin production at night.


Take Away


If you want to stay healthy, eat breakfast earlier and avoid eating dinner too late.

Many people who eat late at night suffer from acid reflux, a common condition that causes symptoms such as

  • heartburn,

  • indigestion,

  • postnasal drip,

  • hoarseness,

  • difficulty in swallowing,

  • chronic throat clearing,

  • coughing, and

  • asthma.


But that's not all.


Eating dinner late can also

  1. make you gain weight, as well as

  2. raise your insulin and cholesterol levels, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

  3. harm your brain and affect your memory and cognitive functions

  4. disrupt your sleep quality and cause you to have weird dreams.

  5. increase your blood pressure.

  6. make you feel more hungry the next morning.

  7. cause your body to produce more glucose that stimulates a hormone called "ghrelin", which makes you crave more food, which in turn leads to weight gain.


Cited Research


Palomar-Cros, A., Andreeva, V.A., Fezeu, L.K. et al. Dietary circadian rhythms and cardiovascular disease risk in the prospective NutriNet-Santé cohort. Nat Commun 14, 7899 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-43444-3

s41467-023-43444-3
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Vujović, Nina, et al. “Late Isocaloric Eating Increases Hunger, Decreases Energy Expenditure, and Modifies Metabolic Pathways in Adults with Overweight and Obesity.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 34, no. 10, Oct. 2022, pp. 1486-1498.e7. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2022.09.007.

PIIS1550413122003977
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Roth, G. A., Mensah, G. A., Johnson, C. O., Addolorato, G., Ammirati, E., Baddour, L. M., … Benziger, C. P. (2020). Global Burden of Cardiovascular Diseases and Risk Factors, 1990–2019. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2020.11.010 

10.1016_j.jacc.2020.11.010
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Roenneberg, T., Kuehnle, T., Juda, M., Kantermann, T., Allebrandt, K., Gordijn, M., & Merrow, M. (2007). Epidemiology of the human circadian clock. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 11(6), 429–438. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2007.07.005

roenneberg2007
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