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Time of meals can affect heart health as much as the food choice

A new statement by the American Heart Association shows the time you eat meals can affect your cardiovascular health. (Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation)

It’s not just what you eat that affects the health of your heart. It’s also when you eat it.

The conclusion: Earlier is better.

The statement suggests that planning when to eat meals and snacks through the day, as well as eating breakfast regularly might reduce cardiovascular disease.

What is the reason? “Meal timing may affect health due to its impact on the body’s internal clock,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City. Animal studies conducted show that when given food in an inactive time (like while sleeping), metabolism is altered. These animals gained more weight and has issues such as insulin resistance as well as an increase inflammation.  Research will need to be conducted in humans.

While the statement doesn’t give hard and fast rules about meal timing nor how often to eat during the day, the lead author St-Onge , did say eating later in the evening means “it’s harder for the body to process glucose [sugar], compared with earlier in the day. “

Breakfast has been noted to be an important way to start the day for many years, but the statement by the AHA falls short of calling it the most important meal of the day.

“There is a link between eating breakfast and having lower heart disease risk factors,” the statement continues. “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.”

From the standpoint of managing diabetes, this statement is beneficial for other reasons. Late night eating makes it difficult to control swings in BG due to timing of medication that is meant to aid with food intake. Skipping meals through the day can cause issues with energy and increases the risk of consuming more food at the end of the day.  Overall, regular meals through the day and avoiding intake about 1.5 – 2 hours before you head to bed is a good rule of thumb. It will allow for more rest as the digestive system doesn’t have to work on food, it can help people avoid issues with reflux (GERD) and for those of us with diabetes, it will help keep overnight and fasting BG values in check.

Read more at the Miami Herald

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