People who skip breakfast and eat dinner near bedtime may have worse outcomes after a heart attack, a study has warned. The study found that people with the two eating habits had a four to five times higher likelihood of death, another heart attack, or angina (chest pain) within 30 days after hospital discharge for heart attack.
The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, is the first to evaluate these unhealthy behaviours in patients with acute coronary syndromes. Skipping breakfast was observed in 58 per cent, late-night dinner eating in 51 per cent, and both behaviours in 41 per cent.
The study enrolled patients with a particularly serious form of heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). "One in ten patients with STEMI dies within a year, and nutrition is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to improve prognosis," said Marcos Minicucci, of Sao Paolo State University, Brazil.
Minicucci recommended a minimum two hour interval between dinner and bedtime."A good breakfast is usually composed of dairy products, a carbohydrate, and whole fruits," he said in a statement. "It should have 15 to 35 per cent of our total daily calorie intake," said Minicucci.
The study included 113 patients with a mean age of 60, and 73 per cent were men. Patients were asked about eating behaviours on admission to a coronary intensive care unit. Skipping breakfast was defined as nothing before lunch, excluding beverages, such as coffee and water, at least three times per week.
Late-night dinner eating was defined as a meal within two hours before bedtime at least three times per week. Minicucci noted that late-night dinner eating was defined by the two-hour interval between dinner and bedtime, rather than eating late at night.
However, nearly all participants with this habit were late-eaters. Previous studies have found that people who miss breakfast and have a late dinner are more likely to have other unhealthy habits such as smoking and low levels of physical activity.
"Our research shows that the two eating behaviours are independently linked with poorer outcomes after a heart attack, but having a cluster of bad habits will only make things worse," said Minicucci.
"People who work late may be particularly susceptible to having a late supper and then not being hungry in the morning," Minicucci said.
"We also think that the inflammatory response, oxidative stress, and endothelial function could be involved in the association between unhealthy eating behaviours and cardiovascular outcomes," he added.