Jaipur, January 04, 2024.

Breakfast at 8 am and dinner at 8 pm! A tall order for those with busy work days but a mantra for staving off cardiovascular diseases, say doctors who cite a recent study to stress the importance of early, regular and well-spaced meals.

A study led by the Université Sorbonne Paris Nord in France lays out the association between meal timings and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a finding of particular interest to India. According to the Global Burden of Disease study in 2020, India has a cardiovascular death rate of 272 per one lakh population, much higher than that of global average of 235.

CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. The French study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that eating the first and last meals of the day early along with a longer period of night-time fasting could reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

It is the leading cause of mortality in the world with 18.6 million annual deaths in 2019, of which around 7.9 are attributable to diet. The findings, which need to be replicated in other cohorts and through additional scientific studies with different designs, highlight a potential role for meal timing in preventing cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers. While the study wasn’t conducted specifically in India, Abhinit Gupta, consultant cardiologist at Regency Hospital in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, said its findings may have implications for the population given the increasing burden of cardiovascular diseases in the country. “As a doctor, I would advise people in India to be mindful of their meal timings and adopt a balanced approach to nutrition.”While individual dietary needs may vary, it’s important to emphasise regular, well-spaced meals and avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.