Timing of Foods May Affect Death Risk in Diabetes

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Timing of Foods May Affect Death Risk in Diabetes

The timing of foods eaten throughout the day — such as whether people eat potatoes in the morning or evening — is linked to the risk of death in people with diabetes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

While what you eat is clearly important when it comes to both your overall health and blood glucose control, research suggests that how you eat may also be important. Last year, a study found that the timing of consuming different types of carbohydrate and protein was linked to the risk for cardiovascular disease. Another study found that while drinking wine by itself wasn’t linked to a reduced risk for diabetes, drinking it with meals was linked to a lower risk for type 2. Eating meals with family is also linked to both social and health benefits, particularly in adolescents. Nutrition isn’t the only area of health where timing may make a difference — research has also shown that when you exercise may play a role in how it affects cardiovascular health in people with type 2 diabetes.

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For the latest study, researchers were interested in whether consuming various foods at different times throughout the day — in the morning, afternoon, or evening — was linked to long-term survival in people with diabetes. To do this, they looked at reported food intake and follow-up data from 4,642 adults with diabetes who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2003 and 2014. Participants’ food intake was based on two separate 24-hour recall surveys, taken within three to 10 days of each other. Data on deaths among participants was obtained from the National Death Index through 2015, as noted in a Healio article on the study.

Timing of eating certain foods linked to cardiovascular death risk

For each type of food that the researchers looked at — including potatoes and other starchy vegetables, whole grains, dark vegetables, and milk — participants were divided into different groups based on how much of it they consumed in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The researchers found that in the morning, compared with participants with the lowest intake of potatoes and other starchy vegetables, those with the highest intake were 54% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. In the afternoon, participants who consumed the most whole grain were 33% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. In the evening, participants with the highest intake of both dark vegetables and milk were less likely to die of cardiovascular disease — 45% less for dark vegetables, and 44% less for milk — and dedicated milk drinkers were also 29% less likely to die from all causes.

There were also food categories for which eating more at a certain time of day raised the death risk. Participants who ate the most processed meat in the evening were 74% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. And for the beneficial food categories listed above, eating them at a less-than-optimal time of day was linked to a higher death risk than eating them at an optimal time. The researchers found that when keeping the total daily intake of calories the same, switching even a portion of a serving of certain food categories — potatoes and other starchy vegetables from the afternoon or evening to the morning, dark vegetables from the afternoon to the evening, or whole grains from the morning to the afternoon — was linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In fact, for each of these categories, shifting just one-tenth of a portion was linked to a 9% lower cardiovascular death risk for potatoes, a 14% lower risk for other starchy vegetables, an 8% lower risk for dark vegetables, and a 7% lower risk for whole grains.

“People with diabetes are under a disrupted biological rhythm of glucose metabolism, and accumulating evidence in recent years has indicated that food intake time is as important as quantity and quality for maintaining health,” the researchers wrote. “Therefore, nutritional therapy that considers consumption time will be a major component of diabetes treatment” ideally going forward, they concluded.

Want to learn more about eating well with diabetes? Read “Strategies for Healthy Eating,” “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” and “What Is the Best Diet for Diabetes?”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

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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