A new study is adding to a growing list of research that suggests when, not just what, you eat can influence health.
The findings were recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting, and researchers showed that people who ate the bulk of their calories after 6 p.m. had higher blood pressure and cholesterol. This compounds the dangers of eating later in the day, which is also associated with higher insulin and fasting blood sugar levels.
It’s not necessarily the food that causes these problems, either. Instead, your body has a natural “work schedule”—called the circadian rhythm—that your digestive system, cells, and the organs in your metabolism follow. These various components start to shut down in the evening and, quite frankly, are not in the mood to work and don’t do an optimal job. The result is inflammation, higher blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and weakened glucose metabolism.
For the few weeks of holiday parties and holiday feasts, the evening influx of calories may not make that much of a difference in these overall health markers. But doing it regularly will. Which means a useful New Year’s Resolution might be to line up your eating times a little better with circadian rhythm.
This means focusing your big meals earlier in the day—breakfast and lunch—then eating smaller, lighter, easily digestible meals in the evening. Salads, eggs, vegetables, and fruit is likely the best when you’re considering evening eating.
So, enjoy this season while it lasts. In the New Year, get serious about inflammation, heart health, and diabetes risk by eating according to your body’s natural cycles.