Consuming a higher proportion of daily calories after 6 pm is associated with a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke in women, a study claims.
The research, to be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia in the US from November 16 to 18, evaluated the cardiovascular health of 112 women with an average age of 33 (44 per cent Hispanic) by measuring their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels at the beginning of the study, and one year later.
The researchers, including those from Columbia University from the US, used the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 measures which represent the heart disease risk factors people can overcome through lifestyle changes such as not smoking, being physically active, eating healthy foods and controlling body weight.
They also computed a heart health score for the participants based on meeting the Life's Simple 7.
The participants kept electronic food diaries by computer or cell phone which reported what, how much, and when they ate for one week at the beginning of the study, and for one week 12 months later.
The researchers used the data from the food diary completed by each woman to determine the relationship between heart health and the timing of when they ate.
They found that while most study participants consumed some food after 6 PM, those who consumed a higher proportion of their daily calories after this time had poorer heart health.
The heart health declined with every 1 per cent rise in calories consumed after 6 pm, the researchers said.
They said women who consumed more of their calories after 6 pm were more likely to have higher blood pressure, higher body mass index, and poorer long-term control of blood sugar.
According to the researchers, blood pressure's impact was more pronounced in Hispanic women who consumed most of their calories in the evening, and persisted even after adjusting for age and socioeconomic status.
"So far, lifestyle approaches to prevent heart disease have focused on what we eat and how much we eat," said study lead author Nour Makarem from Columbia University.
"These preliminary results indicate that intentional eating that is mindful of the timing and proportion of calories in evening meals may represent a simple, modifiable behavior that can help lower heart disease risk," Makarem said.
Makrem said the results should be confirmed by a study with a larger sample size involving other populations.