Large nighttime meals tied to hypertension, prediabetes

It’s not just what people eat—but when—that may influence their risk of developing prediabetes and high blood pressure, according to preliminary research scheduled to be presented Nov. 10 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

Researchers studied 12,708 adults from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos and found participants consumed an average of 35.7 percent of their daily calories after 6 p.m.

Although meal times weren’t associated with body weight or central adiposity, people who ate at least 30 percent of their daily calories after 6 p.m. were 23 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and 19 percent more likely to have prediabetes compared to those who consumed greater proportions of their food earlier in the day.

Each one-point increase in the proportion of food consumed at night was linked to higher fasting glucose and insulin levels, as well as insulin resistance—all factors of prediabetes which increase the risk of full-blown diabetes.

“There is increasing evidence that when we eat is important, in addition to what we eat and how much we eat,” said lead author Nour Makarem, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, in a press release. “Your meal timing matters and eating earlier in the day may be an important strategy to help lower the risk for heart disease.”

All the data on patients’ meal times and metabolic measures were collected just once, so Makarem and colleagues suggested future studies look at long-term effects of meal timing on heart disease.