July 19, 2024

03/19/24 Editor’s note:  

  • The research authors have shared their full poster presentation for updated details about their research abstract. Please see the digital file attached, under additional resources below, for these details.
  • The most current statistics, reviewed and confirmed by the research authors, are in the poster (please see the digital file attached, under additional resources below) and the news release. 
  • As with any new science development, patients should always consult with their doctor prior to making changes to their health regimens.

As noted in all American Heart Association scientific meetings news releases, research abstracts are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Research Highlights:

  • A study of over 20,000 adults found that those who followed an 8-hour time-restricted eating schedule, a type of intermittent fasting, had a 91% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
  • People with heart disease or cancer also had an increased risk of cardiovascular death.
  • Compared with a standard schedule of eating across 12-16 hours per day, limiting food intake to less than 8 hours per day was not associated with living longer.

Embargoed until 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET, Monday, March 18, 2024

CHICAGO, March 18, 2024 — An analysis of over 20,000 U.S. adults found that people who limited their eating across less than 8 hours per day, a time-restricted eating plan, were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared to people who ate across 12-16 hours per day, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention│Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Scientific Sessions 2024, March 18- 21, in Chicago. The meeting offers the latest science on population-based health and wellness and implications for lifestyle.

Time-restricted eating, a type of intermittent fasting, involves limiting the hours for eating to a specific number of hours each day, which may range from a 4- to 12-hour time window in 24 hours. Many people who follow a time-restricted eating diet follow a 16:8 eating schedule, where they eat all their foods in an 8-hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours each day, the researchers noted. Previous research has found that time-restricted eating improves several cardiometabolic health measures, such as blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

“Restricting daily eating time to a short period, such as 8 hours per day, has gained popularity in recent years as a way to lose weight and improve heart health,” said senior study author Victor Wenze Zhong, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai, China. “However, the long-term health effects of time-restricted eating, including risk of death from any cause or cardiovascular disease, are unknown.”

In this study, researchers investigated the potential long-term health impact of following an 8-hour time-restricted eating plan. They reviewed information about dietary patterns for participants in the annual 2003-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) in comparison to data about people who died in the U.S., from 2003 through December 2019, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Death Index database.

The analysis found:

  • People who followed a pattern of eating all of their food across less than 8 hours per day had a 91% higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.
  • The increased risk of cardiovascular death was also seen in people living with heart disease or cancer.
  • Among people with existing cardiovascular disease, an eating duration of no less than 8 but less than 10 hours per day was also associated with a 66% higher risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
  • Time-restricted eating did not reduce the overall risk of death from any cause.
  • An eating duration of more than 16 hours per day was associated with a lower risk of cancer mortality among people with cancer.

“We were surprised to find that people who followed an 8-hour, time-restricted eating schedule were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Even though this type of diet has been popular due to its potential short-term benefits, our research clearly shows that, compared with a typical eating time range of 12-16 hours per day, a shorter eating duration was not associated with living longer,” Zhong said.

“It’s crucial for patients, particularly those with existing heart conditions or cancer, to be aware of the association between an 8-hour eating window and increased risk of cardiovascular death. Our study’s findings encourage a more cautious, personalized approach to dietary recommendations, ensuring that they are aligned with an individual’s health status and the latest scientific evidence,” he continued. “Although the study identified an association between an 8-hour eating window and cardiovascular death, this does not mean that time-restricted eating caused cardiovascular death.”

Study details and background:

  • The study included approximately 20,000 adults in the U.S. with an average age of 49 years.
  • Study participants were followed for a median length of 8 years and maximum length of 17 years.
  • The study included data for NHANES participants who were at least 20 years old at enrollment, between 2003-2018, and had completed two 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires within the first year of enrollment.
  • Approximately half of the participants self-identified as men, and half self-identified as women. 73.3% of the participants self-identified as non-Hispanic white adults, 11% self-identified as Hispanic adults, 8% self-identified as non-Hispanic Black adults and 6.9% of adults self-identified as another racial category, including mixed-race adults and adults of other non-Hispanic races.

The study’s limitations included its reliance on self-reported dietary information, which may be affected by participant’s memory or recall and may not accurately assess typical eating patterns. Factors that may also play a role in health, outside of daily duration of eating and cause of death, were not included in the analysis.

Future research may examine the biological mechanisms that underly the associations between a time-restricted eating schedule and adverse cardiovascular outcomes, and whether these findings are similar for people who live in other parts of the world, the authors noted.

“Overall, this study suggests that time-restricted eating may have short-term benefits but long-term adverse effects. When the study is presented in its entirety, it will be interesting and helpful to learn more of the details of the analysis,” said Christopher D. Gardner, Ph.D., FAHA, the Rehnborg Farquhar Professor of Medicine at Stanford University in Stanford, California, and chair of the writing committee for the Association’s 2023 scientific statement, Popular Dietary Patterns: Alignment with American Heart Association 2021 Dietary Guidance. 

“One of those details involves the nutrient quality of the diets typical of the different subsets of participants. Without this information, it cannot be determined if nutrient density might be an alternate explanation to the findings that currently focus on the window of time for eating. Second, it needs to be emphasized that categorization into the different windows of time-restricted eating was determined on the basis of just two days of dietary intake,” he said.

“It will also be critical to see a comparison of demographics and baseline characteristics across the groups that were classified into the different time-restricted eating windows – for example, was the group with the shortest time-restricted eating window unique compared to people who followed other eating schedules,  in terms of weight, stress, traditional cardiometabolic risk factors or other factors associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes? This additional information will help to better understand the potential independent contribution of the short time-restricted eating pattern reported in this interesting and provocative abstract.”

Co-authors, their disclosures and funding sources are listed in the abstract.

Statements and conclusions of studies that are presented at the American Heart Association’s scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association’s policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. Abstracts presented at the Association’s scientific meetings are not peer-reviewed, rather, they are curated by independent review panels and are considered based on the potential to add to the diversity of scientific issues and views discussed at the meeting. The findings are considered preliminary until published as a full manuscript in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers and the Association’s overall financial information are here.

Additional Resources:

The American Heart Association’s EPI|Lifestyle Scientific Sessions 2024 is the world’s premier meeting dedicated to the latest advances in population-based science. The 2024 meeting is in-person only, Monday through Thursday, March 18-21 at the Hilton Chicago. The primary goal of the meeting is to promote the development and application of translational and population science to prevent heart disease and stroke and foster cardiovascular health. The sessions focus on risk factors, obesity, nutrition, physical activity, genetics, metabolism, biomarkers, subclinical disease, clinical disease, healthy populations, global health and prevention-oriented clinical trials. The Councils on Epidemiology and Prevention and Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health (Lifestyle) jointly planned the EPI|Lifestyle Scientific Sessions 2024. Follow the conference on Twitter at #EPILifestyle24.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 – our Centennial year – we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact, our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For Media Inquiries and AHA Expert Perspective:

AHA Communications & Media Relations in Dallas: 214-706-1173; [email protected]

John Arnst: [email protected], 214-706-1060

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org


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