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Eating patterns could affect risk of dying from heart disease

(Angelina Zinovieva/iStock, Getty Images)

Not just what – but when – people eat certain foods may affect their risk of dying from heart disease, cancer and other illnesses, a new study finds.

Published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the research concluded that eating starchy snacks after meals and eating a Western-style lunch containing refined grains, cheese and cured meat raised the risk of dying from heart disease and other illnesses. Meanwhile, eating fruits as a snack after breakfast or with lunch, eating vegetables with dinner and snacking on dairy foods in the evening lowered the risk of death.

"People are increasingly concerned about what they eat as well as when they eat," lead study author Ying Li said in a news release. Li is a professor in the department of nutrition and food hygiene at Harbin Medical University School of Public Health in Harbin, China.

"Our results revealed that the amount and the intake time of various types of foods are equally critical for maintaining optimal health," he said.

Li's team analyzed eating patterns for 21,503 adults 30 and older across the U.S. from 2003 to 2014, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Death Index to determine which participants had died.

They found eating starchy snacks high in white potato or other starches after any meal could raise the risk of dying from any illness by at least 50% and the risk of dying from heart-related problems by up to 57%. People who ate lunches high in refined grains, solid fats, cheese, cured meat and added sugars – considered a typical Western-style lunch – had a 44% higher risk of dying from heart-related issues.

People who ate the most servings of whole grains, fruits, yogurt and nuts at lunch had a 34% lower risk of dying from heart disease. Meanwhile, consuming dinners high in dark vegetables, red and orange vegetables, tomatoes, other vegetables and legumes meant a 23% lower risk of dying from heart disease and 31% lower overall death risk.

The findings could help people plan meals for better health results, according to Li. "Future nutrition guidelines and interventional strategies could integrate optimal consumption times for foods across the day."


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