Background: Food intake plays a pivotal role in regulating circadian rhythms, which modulate glucose and lipid homeostasis. However, studies investigating the association of meal timing and type 2 diabetes (T2D) incidence are lacking. The objective of this study was to investigate the longitudinal associations of meal timing, number of eating occasions and night-time fasting duration with incidence of T2D.
Methods: In total, 103 312 adults [79% women, mean age at baseline = 42.7 (SD = 14.6)] from the NutriNet-Santé cohort (2009-21) were included. Participants' meal timings and frequency were assessed using repeated 24-h dietary records and averaged from the first 2 years of follow-up (5.7 records/participant). Associations of meal timing, number of eating occasions and night-time fasting duration with incidence of T2D were assessed by using multivariable Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for known risk factors.
Results: During a median follow-up of 7.3 years, 963 new cases of T2D were ascertained. Compared with participants habitually having a first meal before 8AM, those eating after 9AM had a higher incidence of T2D (HR = 1.59, 95% CI 1.30-1.94). Time of last meal was not associated with T2D incidence. Each additional eating episode was associated with a lower incidence of T2D (HR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.90-0.99). Night-time fasting duration was not associated with T2D incidence, except in participants having breakfast before 8AM and fasting for >13 h overnight (HR = 0.47, 95% CI 0.27-0.82).
Conclusions: In this large prospective study, a later first meal was associated with a higher incidence of T2D. If confirmed in other large-scale studies, an early breakfast should be considered in preventing T2D.
Keywords: Meal timing; breakfast; circadian rhythms; cohort; fasting; type 2 diabetes mellitus.
© The Author(s) 2023; all rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association.