eating at night

Do you eat a lot of food after dusk? You may be at a higher risk of heart disease

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A new study by the American Heart Association has found that women who intake more calories after the sun goes down are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to women who ate more during the day.

The study included 112 women who were instructed to keep a dietary journal in which they reported what they ate, how much of it they ate, and at what time of the day. Researchers used the resulting data to determine whether there exists a link between the time at which women eat and their cardiovascular health. As it happens, there appears to be such a link. Below are the study’s key conclusions:

  • While most study participants consumed some food after 6 p.m., those who consumed a higher proportion of their daily calories after this time had poorer heart health.
  • With every 1% increase in calories consumed after 6 p.m., heart health declined.
  • Specifically, women who consumed more of their calories after 6 p.m. were more likely to have higher blood pressure, higher body mass index and poorer long-term control of blood sugar.
  • Similar findings occurred with every 1% increase in calories consumed after 8 p.m.
  • The impact on blood pressure was more pronounced in Hispanic women who consumed most of their calories in the evening and persisted even after adjusting for age and socioeconomic status.

“So far, lifestyle approaches to prevent heart disease have focused on what we eat and how much we eat,” said lead author Nour Makarem, Ph.D., associate research scientist at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. “These preliminary results indicate that intentional eating that is mindful of the timing and proportion of calories in evening meals may represent a simple, modifiable behavior that can help lower heart disease risk.”

Having said that, more research is needed to confirm the findings and to develop definitive guidelines. Kristin Newby, M.D., chair of the oversight advisory committee for the Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network, described the study as a good first step.

“I think it’s an important study, it’s foundational more than definitive at this point, but I think it provides some really interesting insights into an aspect of nutrition and how it relates to cardiovascular risk factors that we really haven’t thought about before,” she said. “It is never too early to start thinking about your heart health whether you’re 20 or 30 or 40 or moving into the 60s and 70s. If you’re healthy now or if you have heart disease, you can always do more. That goes along with being heart smart and heart healthy.”