In recent decades, type 2 diabetes has emerged as a significant global health concern, affecting millions worldwide. Characterized by high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, this chronic metabolic disorder has severe consequences for individuals and healthcare systems. While genetic predisposition plays a role, lifestyle factors, particularly diet and eating habits, have been identified as crucial contributors to developing type 2 diabetes.
To prevent this potentially debilitating condition, researchers and health professionals have explored various strategies to mitigate the risk of type 2 diabetes. Among these strategies, the timing of meals has garnered increasing attention as a potential modifiable factor that may impact an individual’s susceptibility to the disease. This study aims to investigate these potential links using data from the NutriNet-Santé cohort. This large prospective cohort study offers a wealth of dietary and lifestyle information.
A study of over 100,000 participants in a French cohort, at supported by “la Caixa” Foundation through Barcelona Institute for Global Health(ISGlobal), has unveiled a significant link between breakfast timing and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The research found that having breakfast after 9 am increases the risk by 59% compared to those who eat breakfast before 8 am, indicating that not only the content of our meals but also their timing can influence diabetes risk.
Alongside well-known modifiable risk factors like an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and smoking, this study highlights the critical role meal timing plays in regulating circadian rhythms and glucose and lipid control, an aspect rarely explored in past research on type 2 diabetes. These findings underscore the potential impact of a simple lifestyle change—having an early breakfast—in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and empowering individuals to take proactive steps toward long-term health and well-being.
During the study, researchers identified 963 new cases of type 2 diabetes, revealing a significantly higher risk in individuals who regularly consumed breakfast after 9 am compared to those who ate before 8 am. Skipping breakfast can disrupt glucose and lipid control and impact insulin levels, offering a plausible biological explanation for these findings. Additionally, eating dinner after 10 pm was associated with increased risk, while having approximately five meals a day appeared to lower the incidence of the disease.
Prolonged fasting was only beneficial if combined with early breakfast and dinner. Based on the results, the research team suggests that having breakfast before 8 am and dinner before 7 pm may help reduce the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Notably, this ISGlobal team has previously provided evidence supporting an association between an early dinner and a reduced breast or prostate cancer risk.
The present study provides valuable insights into the associations between meal timing, number of eating occasions, and night-time fasting duration with the incidence of type 2 diabetes. These findings underscore the importance of considering what we eat and when we eat about diabetes risk. An early breakfast and a limited eating window may serve as practical lifestyle modifications to help reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
The research has implications for public health initiatives, emphasizing the significance of promoting healthier eating patterns and their potential impact on long-term health outcomes.