When we eat may be important to consider, in addition to what we eat.
According to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, meal timing can have an effect on your risk for conditions such as heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and reduced insulin sensitivity.
For the study, researchers from Columbia University analyzed previous studies on breakfast and heart disease, finding that people who eat breakfast daily were less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Meanwhile, those who skipped breakfast and snacked throughout the day were more likely to have poor nutrition and were at a higher risk of being diagnosed with diabetes.
To be specific, those who skipped breakfast had a 27% increased risk of suffering from a heart attack, and a 15% higher risk of having a stroke.
“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, insulin resistance 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 research also looked at periodic fasting (reducing your calorie intake substantially, usually to 500 calories, or less than a quarter of your daily calorie requirements, on one or two days a week), as well as fasting on alternate days.
The effect on people’s cholesterol varied; for some people intermittent fasting reduced it and for other people it had no effect.
To lower their blood pressure, participants had to lose a minimum 6 per cent of their body weight to see an effect. However, the researchers admitted that there is no data that indicates whether the weight loss from fasting can be sustained long term.
Professor St-Onge added: "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."