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Timing of Different Carbs, Proteins May Affect Cardiovascular Risk

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Timing of Different Carbs, Proteins May Affect Cardiovascular Risk

Not only do different forms of carbohydrate and protein affect your risk for cardiovascular disease, but that risk also depends on the time of day these nutrients are consumed, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers have long known or suspected that a person’s cardiovascular disease risk depends not just on their intake of nutrients like carbohydrate or protein, but also on the type or quality of these nutrients — for example, low-quality (refined or easily digested) carbohydrates or high-quality (minimally processed or slowly digested) carbohydrate. But until now, very little research has examined how eating different types of carbohydrate or protein at different times of the day affects the risk for cardiovascular disease.

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For the latest analysis, researchers examined data from 27,911 participants in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, who completed this survey between 2003 and 2016. Participants answered detailed questions about their food intake, and researchers used these responses to estimate their intake of different forms of nutrients at different mealtimes. For this study, the researchers were interested specifically in how consuming different forms of carbohydrate or protein at breakfast or dinner was linked to participants’ cardiovascular disease risk.

Low-quality carb, animal-based protein at dinner linked to cardiovascular risk

After adjusting for a number of factors known to affect a person’s cardiovascular disease risk — including factors like age and body weight — the researchers found that study participants who consumed the highest amount of low-quality carbohydrate overall had a higher cardiovascular risk. Specifically, the top fifth of participants for low-quality carbohydrate consumption were 63% more likely to experience angina (chest pain) and 47% more likely to have a heart attack compared with the bottom fifth. When it came to consumption of protein from animal sources, the top fifth of participants were 44% more likely to have coronary artery disease (CAD) and 44% more likely to experience angina. The researchers also found that this increased risk tended to come mostly from what participants consumed at dinner. Based on comparing different rates of cardiovascular disease in different groups of participants, they found that substituting low-quality with high-quality carbohydrate and animal-based with plant-based protein at dinner could reduce a person cardiovascular risk by about 10%.

The researchers also found that consuming unsaturated types of fat, as opposed to saturated fat, at dinner was linked to a lower cardiovascular disease risk. The top fifth of participants who consumed the highest ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat were 24% less likely to have a stroke than the bottom fifth, a relationship that also tended to be based on what participants ate at dinner.

The researchers concluded that while the quality of nutrients like carbohydrate, protein, and carbohydrate matters at any mealtime, the greatest cardiovascular risk from eating low-quality carbohydrate, animal protein, and saturated fat appears to be based on what people consume at dinner. Based on these findings, it makes sense to target healthy eating advice or dietary interventions toward evening meals, rather than what people eat for breakfast or lunch.

Want to learn more about protecting your heart? Read “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers,” “Does Diabetes Hurt Your Heart?” “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods” and “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

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A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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