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Eating dinner after 9pm may increase the risk of stroke by 28%

Traditional meal times frequently get neglected in the rush of modern life, which results in unstable and sometimes chaotic eating habits.

However, did you know that timing your meals may be just as important as content?

A recent study exploring the field of chrononutrition and showing how meal timing can have a major impact on cardiovascular health was published in Nature Communications.

Here are the key findings of the study that you must know about.

The circadian connection

Our bodies follow circadian cycles, roughly 24-hour physiological rhythms. Central to this is the fasting/eating cycle, influencing peripheral clocks in various tissues. These, in turn, regulate heart and blood vessel functions. The study explores the link between alterations in eating and fasting times and the incidence of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). With CVD being the leading cause of global disease and death, faulty dietary patterns contribute significantly. Chrononutrition, a growing field, seeks to clarify the complex relationships that exist between food timing and health. In a time when traditional mealtimes are frequently disregarded, realising the significance becomes critical.

Breakfast and late-night meals

Research highlights the importance of breakfast for maintaining normal metabolism and cardiovascular health. Late-night meals are associated with arteriosclerosis, obesity, abnormal lipid profiles, and metabolic syndrome in women. The study seeks clarity on identifying meal timings and their impact on cardiovascular outcomes. A potential method for improving cardiometabolic health is Time-Restricted Eating (TRE). Extending nighttime fasting to over 12 hours has shown reductions in body weight, blood pressure, and inflammation in humans. The study examines how nighttime fasting duration directly affects CVD risk.

​Study insights

Utilising data from the NutriNet-Sante study with over 100,000 adults, the research identifies key factors linked to meal timings. Younger individuals, smokers, and those with later meal timings show higher CVD risk. The study unfolds over a 7-year period, revealing a correlation between late first meals and an increased risk of CVD. The study underscores the significance of meal timing, showing that the later the first meal, the higher the risk of CVD. Notably, eating after 9 pm increases the risk by 13%. Cerebrovascular disease risk rises by 8% with each hour delay in the last meal, reaching a peak of 28% after 9 pm. Increased nighttime fasting is linked to a 7% reduction in cerebrovascular disease risk.

​Implications for cardiometabolic health

Cardiometabolic health thrives on early Time-Restricted Eating, supported by previous findings linking early breakfasts and longer overnight fasting to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Early meals promote food metabolism, aligning with peripheral circadian rhythms that regulate blood pressure.

​Considerations and future research

While the study sheds light on the meal timing-cardiovascular health nexus, confounding factors like night shift work and other lifestyle elements must be considered. The study urges further research into the intricate relationship between meal timing, circadian rhythms, and overall health.

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