When — in Addition to What — We Eat Matters, Too: Study

As MedPage points out, much of what we hear about healthy eating has to do with what we eat. When we eat seems to matter, too:

“In an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, researchers found that the more meals people ate during the day, the lower their risk of developing NAFLD [non-alcoholic fatty liver disease] — 10% lower for each additional meal consumed . By the same token, skipping breakfast and lunch was associated with significantly increased likelihood of NAFLD.”

Said  James Esteban, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee: “Meal timing and how calories are distributed during the day may be associated with the presence of fatty liver. “In our modern society we see things like more shift and long distance air travel. And people are staying up later than usual because of electric light, the internet, or TV.”

To make their determination, researchers conducted a survey and broke “a 24-hour day into four intervals: 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., 4 to 10 a.m., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 4 to 10 p.m.”

They found:

  • “Skipping the morning and midday meals was associated with 20% (95% CI 5%-36%) and 73% (95% CI 26%-138%) increases, respectively, in the odds of developing fatty liver”
  • “Consuming a greater percentage of the day’s calories in the morning decreased the likelihood of developing fatty liver by 14% to 21%”
  • “Eating meals late at night — from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. — increased the probability of developing significant fibrosis by 61% (95% CI 10%-136%)”

An interesting note for a certain type of employee — and employer — from Raymond Chung, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital: “A corollary to this is whether the deck is stacked against people who do night shift work. It’s no surprise that these workers are at risk for higher BMI and other health issues. So for certain strata that are at risk for missing these meals, we should try to come down harder on these kinds of recommendations.”