It is not just what we eat that affects our heart health but the timings at which we have our meals. Researchers have now found the optimal meal timings that can help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels, including heart attacks and stroke. It is the leading cause of death in the world.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, recommends adopting the habit of having early breakfast (by 8 a.m.) and dinner (8 p.m.) to prevent cardiovascular disease.

The research team came up with some interesting findings after analyzing data from 103,389 participants from the NutriNet-Santé study, an ongoing study in France that evaluates the link between nutrition and health.

Previous studies had associated regular skipping of breakfast and eating late dinners with reduced cardiometabolic health. In the new study, it was found that having breakfast later in the day raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, with a 6% increase in risk per hour delay. People who take late dinner, after 9 p.m., have a 28% higher risk of cerebrovascular disease (stroke) compared to others who ate their last meal before 8 pm. This risk was particularly evident in women, the researchers said.

A longer night-time fasting – the time between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day – reduces the risk of cerebrovascular disease. Each additional hour of night-time fasting achieved by following an early dinner pattern reduces cerebrovascular disease risk by 7%, the study has revealed.

"These 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. They suggest that adopting the habit of eating earlier first and last meals with a longer period of night-time fasting could help to prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease," researchers wrote in a news release.

"Dietary behaviors are part of the main modifiable risk factors contributing to the global burden of CVD. It is becoming more evident that the optimal metabolism of food is time-of-day-dependent. Food is a well-known synchronizer of peripheral clocks in the circadian system which controls blood pressure rhythms and eating late at night can disrupt this system and lead to metabolic disturbances," the researchers explained.