Eating dinner after 7pm puts heart at risk
Millions of Britons are increasing their risk of heart attacks by eating dinner after 7pm, experts have warned.
Having dinner within two hours of bed time did more damage than the long-established risk of having a high-salt diet, a study found.
More than 700 adults with high blood pressure were assessed to find out what difference their diet and eating times made to their health.
The study, by a Turkish university, examined the types of foods eaten, levels of salt consumed, whether breakfast was eaten regularly and the timing of evening meals.
Researchers found that eating dinner late had the most significant impact on overnight blood pressure.
Cardiologists at the world’s largest heart conference, in Rome, said the study suggested that when people eat could be as important as what they eat. A healthy diet meant eating a good breakfast and lunch, but limiting the last meal of the day to a light meal, ideally no later than 7pm.
One in four Britons suffers from high blood pressure – also known as hypertension – which is one of the key risks for heart disease.
In around 40 per cent of cases, blood pressure fails to drop properly overnight, sharply increasing the chance of heart attacks. The study found that those who eat dinner late are almost twice as likely to suffer from “non-dipper hypertension” – when pressure fails to drop properly overnight.
In total 24.2 per cent of those who ate dinner within two hours of bed suffered from blood pressure which did not drop sufficiently overnight, compared with 14.2 per cent of those who ate their evening meal earlier.
Experts said that eating late left the body on “high alert” encouraging the production of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, while it might also disrupt the circadian rhythms. The research – the first to examine the links between late night eating and “non-dipper hypertension” – said those who skipped breakfast were also more likely to fail to see an overnight dip in pressure.
But this had less impact than late-night eating, and might have been explained by the fact those who ate late at night were more likely to skip breakfast, researchers said. Blood pressure is supposed to drop by at least 10 per cent at night to allow the body to rest.
Dr Ebru Özpelit, associate professor of cardiology, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, said modern life was encouraging people into “erratic” eating habits which could cause later damage. Artificial lighting meant people were likely to eat far later in the day, when the body expected them to eat before nightfall, she suggested
Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, Dr Özpelit said: “We must define the ideal frequency and timing of meals because how we eat may be as important as what we eat.”
Researchers said they hoped the results would be confirmed by large population based studies.
The Daily Telegraph
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