For people with type 2 diabetes (T2D), the nerves that control the heart may be damaged over time (this is called autonomic neuropathy). This can lead to changes in heart rate variability (HRV). HRV reflects healthy changes in beat-to-beat heart rate. Low levels of HRV is a strong predictor of premature mortality and other serious complications in people with diabetes. In new research, investigators looked at whether the time of the day or night when we eat affects HRV. We already know that nighttime eating is associated with problems including emotional eating, depressed mood, disruptions in sleep, worse control of blood glucose levels, and higher rates of diabetes complications.
Hispanic/Latinos and nighttime eating
In this study, the participants were Hispanic/Latino adults with T2D. Each person completed surveys, provided blood tests, and wore monitors to measure their HRV. Participants’ average age was 60 years (73% female), HbA1c was 8.7%, and most (76%) had less than a high school education. Compared with participants who said they did not eat at night, “night eaters” had lower HRV, more emotional eating, and poorer sleep quality. They did not differ on consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks or depressive symptoms.
Nighttime eating is associated with lower HRV and therefore worse cardiovascular health, poorer emotional health, and worse sleep. Poor sleep quality and waking after falling asleep may prompt people to eat to get back to sleep or keep them awake and eating at night. Nutrition education may help people with diabetes better time their eating and the type and amount of food they eat to promote heart health.
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