Women who ate a higher proportion of their daily calories later in the evening were more likely to be at greater risk for cardiovascular disease than women who did not, according to preliminary research from Columbia University that was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2019 in Philadelphia.
Researchers assessed the cardiovascular health of 112 women (average age 33, 44% Hispanic) using the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7® measures at the beginning of the study and one year later.
Life's Simple 7 represents the risk factors that people can improve through lifestyle changes to help achieve ideal cardiovascular health. They include not smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet and controlling body weight, along with measuring cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. A heart health score based on meeting the Life's Simple 7 was computed.
Study participants kept electronic food diaries by computer or cell phone to report what, how much and when they ate for one week at the beginning of the study and for one week 12 months later. Data from the food diary completed by each woman was used to determine the relationship between heart health and the timing of when they ate.
- 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 one percent 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 one percent 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. These preliminary results indicate being mindful of the timing and proportion of calories in evening meals may help lower heart disease risk.
The results need to be confirmed in a larger sample and in other populations.
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.
Source: American Heart Association, November 2019.
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