(HealthDay News) — A new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) published in Circulation, highlights what’s known — and what’s not — about meal timing and cardiovascular health.

The report is a response to the growing evidence that timing matters when it comes to cardiovascular disease risk, lead author Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City, told HealthDay. The various organs of the body have their own “clocks,” St-Onge explained, and that may affect how we handle food at different times of the day and night.

A number of studies have found that breakfast eaters are generally healthier than breakfast skippers: They tend to weigh less, have better blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, and have lower risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to the AHA. Studies that track people in the real world have found that those who eat more often during the day have a lower risk of obesity and better cholesterol levels.

The statement lacks specific rules, such as “never eat after 8 pm,” or “everyone should eat breakfast.” It does, however, suggest that people spread out their calories over a “defined” period of the day — as opposed to either eating a lot over a short period, or grazing from morning until night. Based on the evidence, the AHA says, it’s probably a good idea to consume most of the day’s calories earlier in the day.

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  1. St-Onge MP, Ard J, Baskin ML, et al. Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 30 January 2017. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000476. [Epub ahead of print]