They say you are what you eat, but when plays just as an important role in your overall heart health.
A remarkable study done by Columbia University experts found that among a sample of 112 women, those who tended to have dinner after 6 PM were at greater risk of developing heart disease – the world’s number one killer!
So how does this happen?
How can a clock determine your risk factor for developing a potentially fatal condition?!
And will simply pushing our dinner schedule a few hours ahead do us much good?
I've got all the answers.
Dr. Makarem’s Findings
First of all, it’s important to understand how these researches came to their conclusion.
Dr. Nour Makarem, the lead author of the study, used the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7 Measures. Each measure represents seven different lifestyle categories where each category is measured using a 0 to 2 points system (2 being ideal, 1 being intermediate, and 0 being poor quality). A person living an ideal healthy lifestyle would score a perfect 14 points.
A 2017 study found that employees who met the ideal score for at least six of the seven measures saved more than $2,000 on annual healthcare compared to their counterparts who received ideal marks for only two of the AHA measures.
The measures developed by the AHA are:
1. Stop smoking. The dangerous chemical substances found in cigarettes can constrict blood vessels.
2. Get active. Exercising regularly can help with controlling several different categories, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. Someone who is inactive for extended periods of time is at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Eat better. Monitoring your food intake and frequency can help keep your weight in check.
4. Lose weight. Being overweight or obese significantly increases your risk of heart disease.
5. Manage blood pressure. Hypertension can damage blood vessels and potentially lead to stroke and heart disease.
6. Manage cholesterol. The fatty substance found in your blood can restrict blood flow by narrowing blood vessels and increase your risk of developing blood clots.
7. Reduce blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to diabetes which can impair blood flow by narrowing blood vessels.
Each participant was asked to record her diet and eating habits for an entire week during the beginning and end of the study period.
In the end, Dr. Makarem and his fellow researchers concluded that:
○ The women who consumed a higher proportion of their daily caloric intake after 6 PM had poorer heart health;
○ Every 1% increase in calorie intake after 6 PM led to a decline in heart health;
○ Those who consumed more calories after 6 PM were more likely to suffer from higher blood pressure, a wider waistline, and poor control over blood sugar;
○ The same findings were present in women who ate dinner after 8 PM;
○ Impacts on blood pressure were more prominent in Hispanic women who comprised 44% of the population sample.
In the end, what does all of this mean for YOU?
These findings are actually more foundational than definitive, but they do offer some pretty interesting insight on how we can better control our health.
The Importance of WHEN to Eat
For longer than experts would like to admit, a large portion of past studies focused primarily on what you should and shouldn’t eat rather than what time you should stop eating.
(Though you should take a look at our Ultimate Guide on Keto if your aim is to drop poundage quickly).
Whether you realize it or not, our eating patterns have a lot to do with our sleeping patterns.
Our bodies follow an internal clock (the circadian rhythm) which governs when our bodies should be given a boost of energy. The clock also tells our bodies when to shut down for the day to rest up and repair whatever may damage may have occurred during the day.
But our busy schedules have forced many people to completely ignore their internal clock’s screaming alarms. And this is much, MUCH worse for shift workers with constantly changing work hours.
Since our organs and body systems are at tip-top shape when working together, experts have come to the conclusion that late-night eating can really screw you over. The effects of eating when our body is trying to shut down for the day include a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – three of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US.
Okay, So How Late Is Too Late to Eat?
An excellent question if we do say so ourselves.
Sadly, researchers have yet to offer a definitive cut-off time of when to stop nibbling.
A number of different ideas have been popped up regarding when should you stop eating. Some have suggested refraining from consuming calories for at least two hours before hitting the hay while others simply say don’t eat after 6 PM.
Others have suggested a more radical approach by skipping dinner altogether and extending your overnight fast. This could mean having your last meal of the day as early as 2 PM and fasting for 16 hours until breakfast time the next day.
A shocker, we know, but the results speak for themselves.
What Can I Do?
It’s never too late to make the right changes.
Granted, an early-bird dinner before 6 PM might not sound appealing, especially if you’re in your 20s and work your fingers to the bone long into the night.
However, we can’t argue with the facts: eating earlier while our internal clocks are still active and forcing energy through our bodies can help us keep our waistlines and blood pressure in check.