Researchers have discovered that eating meals early could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers used data from 103,389 participants in the NutriNet-Sante cohort (79 per cent of whom were women, with an average age of 42) to study the associations between food intake patterns and cardiovascular disease.
To reduce the risk of possible bias, the researchers accounted for a large number of confounding factors, especially sociodemographic factors (age, sex, family situation, etc.), diet nutritional quality, lifestyle and sleep cycle. The findings showed that having a first meal later in the day (such as when skipping breakfast), is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, with a 6 per cent increase in risk per hour delay.
"For example, a person who eats for the first time at 9 a.m. is 6 per cent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than someone who eats at 8 a.m. When it comes to the last meal of the day, eating late (after 9 p.m.) is associated with a 28 per cent increase in the risk of cerebrovascular disease such as stroke compared with eating before 8 p.m., particularly in women," the study said.
Moreover, the researchers found that a longer duration of night-time fasting, the time between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the following day, is associated with a reduced risk of cerebrovascular disease, supporting the idea of eating one's first and last meals earlier in the day.
According to the Global Burden of Disease study, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, with 18.6 million annual deaths in 2019, of which around 7.9 are attributable to diet. "This means that diet plays a major role in the development and progression of these diseases. The modern lifestyle of Western societies has led to specific eating habits such as eating dinner late or skipping breakfast," the researchers said.
In addition, the researchers suggested that "adopting the habit of eating earlier first and last meals with a longer period of night-time fasting could help to prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease".