healthy eating

Triple the risk of high blood pressure? Eat late!

People have been warned not to eat late at night after a study found it tripled the risk of high blood pressure.

Dinner should be eaten no later than two hours before bedtime, advise scientists, who insist that when we eat could be as important as what we eat.

Healthy eating to lower blood pressure

Previous research has emphasised the importance of a good breakfast in staying healthy, and the latest findings underline that eating is best done early in the day.

Almost 10 million people in Britain have high blood pressure, which increases their risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Blood pressure usually drops at night, but in many patients this does not happen and these people are particularly prone to further heart problems.

“If blood pressure doesn’t drop by more than 10 per cent at night this increases cardiovascular risk and these patients have more [heart attacks and strokes] and more chronic disease,” said Ebru Özpelit of Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey, who led the study.

In the first study of its kind, her team found that “non-dipping” high blood pressure was much more likely in people who regularly eat within two hours of going to bed. They studied 721 patients with high blood pressure, half of whom had the non-dipping kind.

After adjusting for age, weight and other risks, they found that people who reported eating late at night were 2.8 times as likely to suffer from the condition, they told the European Society of Cardiology’s congress in Rome. Dr Özpelit said that late-night eaters were not bingeing on junk food but simply delaying dinner or snacking on nuts and fruit.

Although the study could not prove a link, she said that animal studies have suggested that eating at night interferes with the body clock and stimulates the production of hormones such as adrenaline which affect blood pressure. She emphasised that dinner should be eaten no later than 7pm.

“If we eat late at night, the body essentially remains on high alert as during the day, rather than relaxing for sleep, and stress hormones are secreted causing blood pressure not to decrease during sleep,” she said.

She said that mealtimes were a key factor. “We must define the ideal frequency and timing of meals because how we eat may be as important as what we eat,” she said.

“It is not as important as obesity and it is not as important as diabetes, but we found it was more important than salt consumption in our analysis.”


This is a retrospective observational study.  It is based on what people with a condition (hypertension) recall in terms of their lifestyle and previous habits.  At best it may demonstrate association, not causation.  For that you need a prospective RCT (randomised controlled trial) where patients are divided into two similar groups before they have developed the condition, with one group eating late and one eating at a normal time, with all other confounding factors potentially controlled for.   Retrospective observational studies are low down on the scale of evidence quality and mean very little.  Must a be slow news day in terms of health.  I know the Times isn’t a medical journal but it could do without publishing such tosh with misleading headlines.


According to this blood pressure must be very high in Cyprus and other European countries bordering the Mediterranean where it is normal to eat late.

yes….I agree, The southern Mediterranean diet is often cited as one reason for the longer life expectancy of people from the region.  Yet they routinely eat at 9.00 pm or an even more preposterous later time.

Healthy Eating Around the World

January is here again and no doubt many of you have New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and move to a healthier diet with lots more fruit and vegetables.

But you shouldn’t let that stop you taking a well-earned break. In fact, let it inspire your travels! Having a relaxing time doesn’t have to mean relaxing on your resolutions.

Here we look at some of the regional health specialities from around the globe.

Olives in the Mediterranean

For many in the Mediterranean, the food message is simple: eat from the source. Olives and olive oil are widely used in this region’s cooking and it is no surprise as they are rich in mono-unsaturated fat and antioxidants too!

So if you’re visiting southern Europe or other parts of the Mediterranean coast this year, you can eat local cuisine safe in the knowledge that it will not all be fatty and unhealthy. Opt for olives as a healthy snack and use fresh olive oil in dressing on your salad. It is no surprise that olives are one of the worlds most enjoyed foods!

Pineapple in South America & the Caribbean

Whilst many associate pineapples with Hawaii, they actually originate in South America. They are one of the most popular tropical fruits, being sweet, juicy, nutritious and healthy too, bursting with vitamins and minerals. Popular almost all over the world now and it’s particularly refreshing in hot climates. Enjoy it as part of your breakfast on holiday, in a juice, smoothie or sorbet on the beach, as a snack (fresh or dried) or grilled as part of a delicious dessert. It’s so versatile and one of your five a day too!

Mint tea in the Middle East

Fresh mint tea is one of the key drinks in this region. It’s consumed throughout the day, offered to guests and a must at parties and gatherings, all sustained by being both healthy and refreshing! Mint tea is made using fresh mint leaves, hot water and green tea, then brewed and served in small glasses rather than cups and saucers. It is also taken as an ancient and popular remedy for indigestion. So whether you visit Dubai, Oman, Lebanon or Egypt this year, adopt mint tea as your regular brew!

Lentils in India

Lentils are one of the world’s primary pulses and are extremely popular in India where much of the population is vegetarian. They come in various sizes and colours and are a great source of protein, high in fibre and have a low glycemic index value making them particularly good for diabetics. Their versatility means they are great for both hot and cold dishes from healthy salads and soups to stews, curries, dhals and purees too. If you happen to visit India this year, enjoy eating lentils in myriad ways!

Grilled meats in Australia

Healthy eating in the antipodean lands isn’t actually hard. The Aussies are big fans of the BBQ which is a great, healthy way of cooking! If you’re planning a trip ‘Down Under’ this year then you definitely shouldn’t miss out on a good old ‘barbie’. With lots of fresh seafood, poultry and meat on the grill, it’s a great way to enjoy food and still be good to yourself. So whether it’s in a beer garden on the beach or on the terrace of a restaurant, enjoy meat the Australian way – leave the rich, fatty sauces behind and throw in some roasted veggies for good measure!

Low Fat Diets

Fat and Cholesterol

Most of us eat too much fat including too much saturated fat, which directly causes raised cholesterol and causes weight gain. Fatty foods contain huge numbers of calories compared to the same amount of carbohydrate foods and fruit and vegetables.
Due to the large amount of calories contained in fat, you should cut down on all types of fat. However, it is much more important to cut back on saturated fat, as this fat increases cholesterol.

Saturated Fat

This type of fat should be avoided altogether (the fat found in animal fat, coconut and palm oil) because it is known to increase blood cholesterol levels. This causes narrowing or furring of your arteries and increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. This risk is much greater if you also have high blood pressure
There are two types of cholesterol in your body:

  • LDL (Low density lipoprotein) – This settles in your arteries, narrows them and can block them
  • HDL (High density lipoprotein) – This removes LDL cholesterol from your arteries
Your doctor will want to know your total cholesterol level as well as the ratio of the bad cholesterol (LDL) to good cholesterol (HDL).
You should be aiming for:

  • Total cholesterol level of less than 5mmol/l
  • LDL cholesterol of less than 3 mmol/l (ideally 2 mmol/l)
  • HDL cholesterol above 1 mmol/l
Eating saturated fats increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood. In some foods saturated fat is easy to see, eg, the fat on meat, and cream on a pint of whole milk. However, much of the saturated fat that we eat is hidden in processed foods.

How do I cut down on saturated fat?

  • Eat less red meat. When you do eat red meat, cut off all the fat you can see and grill rather than fry it. Do not make gravy from the fat if you roast the meat
  • Avoid all meat products such as sausages, paté and bacon. These are very high in saturated fat and salt.
  • Eat only low-fat dairy products, eg, fully skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurts. Cheese (40-60% animal fat and high in salt), butter and cream should not be eaten or only eaten in very small amounts; choose half-fat or low-fat products where possible. Many ready prepared meals have cream added to make them taste richer so avoid these
  • Do not use lard (or other animal fats), coconut oil or palm oil
  • Avoid baked foods that are high in fat such as pastry, croissants, manufactured cakes and biscuits
  • Be careful with foods that are labelled as lower or reduced fat as these may still contain large amounts of fat. Look for packaged foods or ready meals with less than 1 gram of saturated fat in 100g
  • Butter and margarine should be avoided. Many contain large amounts of salt and some margarines contain trans fatty acids (see below). It is best to use olive oil or very low-fat spreads using soya or oils which contain no trans fatty acids

Measuring body fat shouldn’t be a chore. This new unit has been developed and endorsed by specialists in a Pan-European study. This development has created an accurate, validated device for home, clinical and fitness use. Easy to use, just stand with feet shoulder length apart, input data, hold straight in front of you and press start. Within a minute the measurement is ready

Trans fatty acids are naturally present in small amounts in meat and dairy produce. In order to harden oils, some are “hydrogenated” (a manufacturing process) to produce trans fatty acids. These may be harmful as they increase LDL cholesterol and also lower HDL cholesterol. Avoid using foods or spreads that contain them; check the ingredients list for the word “hydrogenate” or look for products that state they contain no trans fats The two types of fat or oil to use are:

1. Monounsaturated fat: This fat is found in olive and rapeseed oil as well as walnut oil and avocados. Olive or rapeseed oils are the best fats or oils to use, but remember all oils are very high in calories. For example, one tablespoon of olive oil has the same calories as four apples or two slices of bread. Both olive oil and rapeseed oil can be used for salads, frying, pastry, cakes, biscuits etc.

2. Polyunsaturated fat: This is found in sunflower, soya, and cornflower oils etc, and can be used if rapeseed or olive oil is not available.


Some foods contain cholesterol, but most of the cholesterol in our blood is made from the saturated fat we eat, so small amounts of cholesterol in the diet are not harmful. Eggs, liver, kidney and shellfish all have cholesterol in them.

Do not eat more than two or three eggs a week and only eat these other foods now and again. If you have high cholesterol your doctor or dietitian may advise you cut out these foods altogether.

Some margarine and yoghurts claim they contain substances that will lower cholesterol. More evidence is needed from long-term studies to show whether they do work to lower cholesterol and thereby reduce the risk of a heart attack. They are expensive and it is better to cut your fat intake. If your cholesterol is high you may need tablets to lower it and you should see your doctor

Is Coffee Bad For My Blood Pressure And Heart?

One of the most frequently asked questions about blood pressure

I hear people say that coffee is no good for my blood pressure and my heart. Is it all bad?

No, it’s not all bad. We often focus on the fact that coffee contains caffeine, a bitter-tasting white crystalline substance that scientists describe as the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug in the world.

Caffeine’s ability to stimulate our brain and thus our central nervous system means that, in excess, it can leave us feeling jittery and makes it hard to relax and sleep well.

Four to six caffeinated drinks a day is generally regarded as a “moderate” and safe consumption, although pregnant women should stick with 200mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee a day).

As far as blood pressure is concerned, caffeine does lead to increases in people who don’t have it regularly, but tolerance develops within several days and research suggests that when consumed in coffee (as opposed to caffeine tablets), its impact on raising blood pressure is comparable to the effect of walking up stairs.

Evidence that coffee causes the heart to race after drinking is, experts say, “anecdotal and tenuous”. As for heart disease, if you avoid coffee that hasn’t been filtered or boiled then it does not increase “bad” cholesterol.

It is increasingly recognised that coffee is more than just a sum of its caffeine, milk and sugar load, providing us with hundreds of compounds including a host of antioxidants such as cholorgenic acid and lignans.

Research suggests that having between one and three cups of coffee daily may help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, and that this may in some part be down to these supernutrients.

A new analysis of 42,000 people in Europe showed that people drinking four or more cups of coffee daily were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with those sticking with just one. The apparent protective effects may again be down to cholorogenic acid, which in experiments seems to help to inhibit glucose absorption and even out insulin levels. The mineral magnesium, found in coffee, may also play a protective role.These potentially protective effects appear to have nothing to do with the caffeine in coffee because decaf drinkers in the study had an even lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

As scientists from Harvard University inform us, human and animal studies suggest a hint of protection against Alzheimer’s. Early evidence suggests that coffee may fight against beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that could cause Alzheimer’s.

Healthy diet could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s,

A healthy diet of oily fish, fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists.

The study found that old people with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins C, D, E and B suffered from less brain shrinkage and had higher scores on mental agility tests than those with low levels of the nutrients.

Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D are primarily found in oily fish, such as mackerel, while B vitamins and antioxidants C and E are primarily found in fruits and vegetables.

People whose blood had higher levels of trans fats, found mainly in cakes and fried foods, had the worst cognitive scores.

However, the nutrients did not seem to be effective when found in high concentrations in isolation, suggesting that simply taking fish oil capsules or taking vitamin C tablets may be less effective at protecting against cognitive decline than eating a balanced diet.

The brain typically shrinks by about 10 per cent each decade, even in healthy older people, and the rate of brain atrophy is known to be more rapid in those who go on to develop Alzheimer’s.

Scientists said the findings suggested that in the future dietary therapy could be used to delay the onset and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, although they added that further clinical trials would be needed to provide conclusive evidence.

There are currently 820,000 people in the UK affected by dementia but few treatments have been shown to be effective at preventing or slowing the rate of decline.

Professor Gene Bowman, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, who led the study, said: “If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, these are dietary patterns that you might want to seriously consider.”

The study, published today in the journal Neurology, involved 104 people with an average age of 87 and no diagnosed memory or thinking problems. Blood tests were used to determine the levels of various nutrients present in the blood of each participant. All of the participants also took tests of their memory and thinking skills and 42 had MRI scans to measure their brain volume.

The study suggested that a significant amount of the variation in both brain volume and thinking and memory scores could be explained by differences in nutrient. For the thinking and memory scores, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 17 per cent of the variation in the scores. Other factors such as age, number of years of education and high blood pressure accounted for 46 per cent of the variation.

For brain volume, the nutrient biomarkers accounted for 37 per cent of the variation.

“These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” Professor Bowman said.

A second study, also published today in Neurology, showed that the rate of brain shrinkage is a useful marker for whether a person will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The ability to predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease is a key target for dementia research, as it would allow new treatments to be trialled early, when they are more likely to be effective. These findings add weight to existing evidence that Alzheimer’s begins long before symptoms appear, although it’s important to note that the study did not assess who went on to develop the disease.”


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