Skipping breakfast and eating a late dinner could wreak havoc on your health, research suggests.
Scientists found people who frequently missed their morning meal and regularly ate dinner less than two hours before going to bed were far less likely to survive if they suffered a heart attack.
Experts believe shifting the bulk of food consumption to earlier in the day gives the body a better chance to burn off calories and results in a healthier hormone balance.
The theory – which backs up the old adage, ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’ – also holds that people who eat well in the morning are less likely to snack during the day.
Researchers from São Paolo State University in Brazil tracked 113 people who suffered heart attacks.
The team found 57 per cent of the participants skipped breakfast at least three times a week, 51 per cent had late dinners three times a week, and 41 per cent both missed breakfast and ate their evening meal late.
The researchers also discovered that those who regularly missed their morning meal and ate within two hours of going to bed were four to five times more likely to die within a month of their heart attack, or suffered a repeat attack.
The academics, who published their findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, said changing the way people ate would be an easy way to improve their health.
Study leader Dr Marcos Minicucci said: ‘Nutrition is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to improve prognosis.’
He recommended a minimum two-hour interval between dinner and bedtime.
‘It is said that the best way to live is to breakfast like a king,’ he added.
‘A good breakfast is usually composed of dairy products [such as] fat-free or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese, a carbohydrate – whole wheat bread, bagels, cereals – and whole fruits. It should have 15 to 35 per cent of our total daily calorie intake.’
The researchers said people who miss breakfast and have a late dinner are also more likely to have other unhealthy habits – such as smoking and low levels of physical activity.
Dr Minicucci said: ‘Our research shows that the two eating behaviours are independently linked with poorer outcomes after a heart attack, but having a cluster of bad habits will only make things worse.
‘People who work late may be particularly susceptible to having a late supper and then not being hungry in the morning.
‘We also think that the inflammatory response, oxidative stress, and endothelial function could be involved in the association between unhealthy eating behaviours and cardiovascular outcomes.’