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Heart Disease: Plant-based Dinner Reduce the Risk

Consumption of refined carbohydrates and animal protein particularly red meat has long been known for its detrimental effect on human health and well-being, increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism states that eating too many refined carbs and fatty meats would cause the worst effect if such foods are consumed at dinner rather than in the morning  (Hou et al. 2021).

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of mortality. According to World Health Organization, globally, an estimated 17.9 million people die from congestive heart failure, heart attack, and stroke each year. Many more people will die from these non-communicable diseases if “business as usual” continues.

Meal timing along with food quality are important factors to consider when looking for ways to lower your risk of heart disease.

Diet and Heart Disease

In several previous studies, associations between dietary patterns and heart disease have been established. Consuming an unhealthy diet containing saturated fat, added sugar, and processed meat raises cholesterol levels and increases CVD risk in humans.

In 1986, the widespread prevalence of an unhealthy diet had been blamed for high mortality from heart disease in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia (Alexander et al. 1986). The trend of mortality from heart disease may have existed in other parts of the world.

In a review involving 37 original studies, Zang et al. found that unhealthy/Western-type dietary patterns increase the risk of coronary heart disease at the highest level compared with healthy/prudent dietary patterns (Zhang et al. 2015). However, fewer studies have examined the association of meal timing of an unhealthy diet with CVD risk.

Micronutrient and CVD

Researchers from Harbin Medical University collected survey data from NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) and examined the association of macronutrient consumption at dinner vs breakfast with CVD.

The researchers analyzed dietary information of 27,911 US adults collected during interviews for two non-consecutive days. They examined participants’ consumption of macronutrients such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins at breakfast and dinner time and the prevalence of heart disease.

Participants’ higher amount of low-quality carbohydrates consumption was related to the increased risk of angina and heart disease. A similar trend in the risk of coronary heart disease was observed in participants’ animal protein consumption patterns. However, a higher amount of unsaturated fatty acid (USFA) was related to lower stroke risk.

The study also established the substitution of low-quality carbohydrates/animal protein by high-quality carbohydrates/plant protein at dinner reduced CVD risk by around 10%.

heart disease

“Meal timing along with food quality are important factors to consider when looking for ways to lower your risk of heart disease. Our study found people who eat a plant-based dinner with more whole carbs and unsaturated fats reduced their risk of heart disease by ten percent,” said study author Ying Li of the Harbin Medical University in Harbin, China, in a recent press release.

“It’s always recommended to eat a healthy diet, especially for those at high risk for heart disease, but we found that eating meat and refined carbs for breakfast instead of dinner was associated with a lower risk.”

Related Publication and Further Readings

Alexander, H. M., D. J. Balding, et al. (1986). “Risk factors and heart disease mortality. A regional perspective.” Med J Aust 144(1): 20-22.

Hou, W., J. Gao, et al. (2021). “Meal Timing of Subtypes of Macronutrients Consumption With Cardiovascular Diseases: NHANES, 2003 to 2016.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 10.1210/clinem/dgab288.

Zhang, X. Y., L. Shu, et al. (2015). “Dietary Patterns, Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Adults: A Meta-Analysis.” Nutrients 7(8): 6582-6605. 10.3390/nu7085300.


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