Have we got our meal times all wrong?

If you consume your first meal of the day early, then one observational study from City University New York (CUNY) suggests there could be a link between this and lower mortality levels.

The study saw researchers assessed more than 34,000 US adults over two periods, spanning three decades in total. Assessing people’s ‘clock time’, they looked to see if there was a pattern between when people consume their first meal and mortality rates – of any cause. Professor Ashima Kant, chairperson of Queens College’s Family, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences department conducted the research.

“There is existing evidence that timing of eating may be linked to energy use and storage in the body. One of the possible explanations is due to a possible mismatch between when nutrients are consumed and the timing of release of the body’s metabolic machinery for using the nutrients,” says the expert.

Kant’s study used various markers to check for benefits and detriments to health including body weight, cholesterol and insulin in the blood. The study wasn’t looking for optimum times for eating and good health, they were looking at the opposite, “our primary outcome was risk of dying from any cause by the end of December 2015.”

So, could there be a time when eating the first meal of the day would be linked to a lower rate of mortality? “In this study, the median time of first eating episode of 7:00am in men and 7:15am in women was linked to a lower risk of dying after a median of eight years of follow-up,” says Kant.

However, the expert isn’t willing to jump to conclusions about why eating later could be detrimental to mortality, explaining it “may not coincide with the time of release of hormones needed for metabolic utilization of nutrients. This is a possible reason, but we did not examine this issue, our study is observational.”

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