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Skipping Meals and Late Night Snacking Take a Toll on Heart Health

CardioSmart News

More mindful eating could lead to a healthier heart, based on a recent paper that links irregular eating patterns like frequent snacking and skipping meals to increased cardiovascular risk.

Over the past 40 years, eating patterns have drastically changed in the United States. From the 1970s to 2010, the proportion of adults consuming three meals a day—breakfast, lunch and dinner—decreased by up to 14%. During the same period, the proportion of daily caloric intake from snacks increased from 18% to 23%. Experts worry that changing dietary patterns have taken a toll on American’s health.

To learn more, researchers reviewed all available research on the issue, the results of which were published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Overall, experts conclude that irregular eating patterns are less than ideal when it comes to health. And here’s why.

Based on results of the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES), it’s estimated that 20–30% of U.S. adults do not eat breakfast. The Bogolusa Heart Study, which surveyed more than 500 Louisiana adults on their health and lifestyle, showed that breakfast skippers were nearly half as likely to get their recommended vitamins and minerals each day. Data also shows that breakfast skippers tend to have poorer overall diets, are more likely to be overweight or obese, and have more cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol than those who consume breakfast regularly.

Researchers also found that late-night snacking is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. A Swedish study, as well as a small U.S. study, show that late-night snackers have up to twice the risk for obesity as those who don’t. Eating late at night may also have a negative impact on blood sugar, potentially increasing risk for diabetes.

Authors also note that the combination of poor eating patterns like skipping meals and eating late at night may take an even greater toll on health than each of these factors alone.

The take-home message, according to authors, is that we need to be more mindful of both eating patterns and diet. Maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods is essential to good health and preventing heart disease—America’s No. 1 killer. Irregular eating patterns like skipping meals and late-night snacking can make it difficult to maintain a well-balanced diet. So, taking a close look at not just what we eat but how and when we eat may be key in maintaining a heart healthy diet and lifestyle.

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