Meal planning, timing, may impact heart health

January 30, 2017

Planning when to eat meals and snacks and not skipping breakfast, are patterns associated with healthier diets, which could reduce cardiovascular disease risk, according to a new scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

The statement provides a snapshot of the current scientific evidence suggesting when and how often people eat may impact for heart attack, stroke, or other cardiac or blood vessel diseases.

"Meal timing may affect health due to its impact on the body's internal clock. In animal studies, it appears that when animals receive food while in an inactive phase, such as when they are sleeping, their internal clocks are reset in a way that can alter nutrient metabolism, resulting in greater weight gain, and inflammation. However, more research would need to be done in humans before that can be stated as a fact," said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., writing group chair and an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City.

The statement stresses that it is still important to eat a healthy diet, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, while limiting red meat, salt and foods high in added sugars, but when and how often a person eats may also impact cardiovascular wellness according to a growing body of research.

There is a link between eating breakfast and having lower factors. Studies have found people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure, and people who skip breakfast—about 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. adults—are more likely to be obese, have inadequate nutrition, show evidence of impaired glucose metabolism or be diagnosed with diabetes, she said.

Meal timing and frequency have also been linked to risk factors for heart disease and stroke including obesity, high , cholesterol, , insulin resistance, as well as reduced insulin sensitivity in studies.

"We suggest eating mindfully, by paying attention to planning both what you eat and when you eat meals and snacks, to combat emotional eating. Many people find that emotions can trigger eating episodes when they are not hungry, which often leads to eating too many calories from foods that have low nutritional value."

There is also an association between "occasional fasting" - every other day or 1-2 times a week - and weight loss at least in the short term," St-Onge said.

While observational research links meal habits to cardiovascular health, the evidence cannot definitively show that suggested eating patterns cause better and lasting benefits, the statement noted. Large studies that follow patients over a long period and track outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes are needed, the authors said. And more "free-living" clinical research could help reveal how any formal guidelines about meal or snack planning might be carried out by individuals who are making their own food decisions day-to-day, St-Onge said.

Given people's busy lives, setting time aside to eat without distraction is vital. "All activities have a place in a busy schedule, including healthy eating and being physically active," St-Onge said. "Those activities should be planned ahead of time and adequate time should be devoted to them."

Explore further: Sleep disorders may influence heart disease risk factors

More information: Circulation, DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000476

Related Stories

Sleep disorders may influence heart disease risk factors

September 20, 2016
Sleep problems including sleeping too little or too long, may be linked to a variety of factors that may raise the risk for cardiovascular diseases, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement published ...

Sleep troubles, heart troubles?

September 20, 2016
(HealthDay)—Sleep disorders—including too little or too much sleep—may contribute to heart disease risk factors, the American Heart Association said in its first statement on the risks of sleep problems.

Is 'when we eat' as important as 'what we eat'?

June 21, 2016
In a review of research on the effect of meal patterns on health, the few studies available suggest that eating irregularly is linked to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity). ...

Nutrition data review shows red meat has neutral effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors

December 19, 2016
Consuming red meat in amounts above what is typically recommended does not affect short-term cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol, according to a new review of clinical trials ...

Prevent type 2 diabetes blood-sugar spikes by eating more protein for breakfast

April 29, 2015
Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes have difficulty regulating their glucose—or blood sugar—levels, particularly after meals. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that Type 2 diabetics can eat more protein ...

Study supports lower cut-off point for defining prediabetes

November 23, 2016
The health risks and mortality associated with prediabetes seem to increase at the lower cut-off point for blood sugar levels recommended by some guidelines, finds a large study published in The BMJ today.

Recommended for you

Deadly heart rhythm halted by noninvasive radiation therapy

December 13, 2017
Radiation therapy often is used to treat cancer patients. Now, doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that radiation therapy—aimed directly at the heart—can be used to treat patients ...

Scientists rewrite our understanding of how arteries mend

December 13, 2017
Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered how the severity of trauma to arterial blood vessels governs how the body repairs itself.

Ultra-thin tissue samples could help to understand and treat heart disease

December 12, 2017
A new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab could help scientists to study how cells behave inside a beating heart.

Research reveals how diabetes in pregnancy affects baby's heart

December 12, 2017
Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have discovered how high glucose levels—whether caused by diabetes or other factors—keep heart cells from maturing ...

Young diabetics could have seven times higher risk for sudden cardiac death

December 12, 2017
Young diabetics could have seven times more risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest than their peers who don't have diabetes, according to new research.

Blood flow–sensing protein protects against atherosclerosis in mice

December 12, 2017
UCLA scientists have found that a protein known as NOTCH1 helps ward off inflammation in the walls of blood vessels, preventing atherosclerosis—the narrowing and hardening of arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.