Eating patterns could affect risk of dying from heart disease

By American Heart Association News

Angelina Zinovieva/iStock, Getty Images
(Angelina Zinovieva/iStock, Getty Images)

Not just what – but when – people eat certain foods may affect their risk of dying from heart disease, cancer and other illnesses, a new study finds.

Published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the research concluded that eating starchy snacks after meals and eating a Western-style lunch containing refined grains, cheese and cured meat raised the risk of dying from heart disease and other illnesses. Meanwhile, eating fruits as a snack after breakfast or with lunch, eating vegetables with dinner and snacking on dairy foods in the evening lowered the risk of death.

"People are increasingly concerned about what they eat as well as when they eat," lead study author Ying Li said in a news release. Li is a professor in the department of nutrition and food hygiene at Harbin Medical University School of Public Health in Harbin, China.

"Our results revealed that the amount and the intake time of various types of foods are equally critical for maintaining optimal health," he said.

Li's team analyzed eating patterns for 21,503 adults 30 and older across the U.S. from 2003 to 2014, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Death Index to determine which participants had died.

They found eating starchy snacks high in white potato or other starches after any meal could raise the risk of dying from any illness by at least 50% and the risk of dying from heart-related problems by up to 57%. People who ate lunches high in refined grains, solid fats, cheese, cured meat and added sugars – considered a typical Western-style lunch – had a 44% higher risk of dying from heart-related issues.

People who ate the most servings of whole grains, fruits, yogurt and nuts at lunch had a 34% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Meanwhile, consuming dinners high in dark vegetables, red and orange vegetables, tomatoes, other vegetables and legumes meant a 23% lower risk of dying from heart disease and 31% lower overall death risk.

The findings could help people plan meals for better health results, according to Li. "Future nutrition guidelines and interventional strategies could integrate optimal consumption times for foods across the day."

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.


American Heart Association News Stories

American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individuals, media outlets, and non-commercial education and awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association News.

Other uses, including educational products or services sold for profit, must comply with the American Heart Association’s Copyright Permission Guidelines. See full terms of use. These stories may not be used to promote or endorse a commercial product or service.

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.