ISLAMABAD: Regular eating patterns and planning the timing and frequency of meals are behaviors that may lead to a healthier lifestyle and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Research has shown that adult behavioral patterns of eating meals and snacks have changed over the past 40 years in the United States.
The tendency to eat three standard meals per day has also declined in both men and women. People in the U.S. now have a habit of eating around the clock rather than sticking to certain meal times.
"Meal timing may affect health due to its impact on the body's internal clock," says Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., writing group chair, and an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City.
The AHA researchers suggest that if U.S. adults were to eat breakfast every day, the adverse effects associated with glucose and insulin metabolism would be reduced.
They also suggest that comprehensive dietary advice that supports daily breakfast consumption may help people to maintain healthy dietary habits throughout the day.
Meal timing and frequency have been linked to heart disease and stroke risk factors, which include high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels, as well as obesity, insulin resistance, and insulin sensitivity.
Focusing on meal timing and frequency may be a starting point for addressing the obesity epidemic. Making dietary changes that promote regular energy intake with a majority of calories consumed earlier in the day has been shown to have positive effects on risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and body weight.
Moreover, guidelines that revolve around meal frequency and timing may help people to improve the quality of their diet without having to restrict calories to promote weight loss.
The statement notes that while the research shows that there is a relationship between meal habits and cardiovascular health, there is currently not enough evidence to show that certain eating patterns cause better and lasting benefits.
Further long-term studies of meal habits are needed before conclusions can be reached on the impact of meal frequency on heart disease and diabetes.
Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D. said that "We suggest eating mindfully, by paying attention to planning both what you eat and when you eat meals and snacks, to combat emotional eating. Many people find that emotions can trigger eating episodes when they are not hungry, which often leads to eating too many calories from foods that have low nutritional value."
St-Onge and colleagues also say that there is a link between occasional fasting - that is, 1-2 times per week or every other day - and short-term weight loss.
"All activities have a place in a busy schedule, including healthy eating and being physically active," says St-Onge. "Those activities should be planned ahead of time and adequate time should be devoted to them," she concludes.