Skipping breakfast or eating late in the day could raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity according to a new study.
The study from a group of American researchers suggests that the time we eat our meal is equally as important as what we eat.
Writing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers from Columbia University said both meal timing and frequency are linked to risk factors for a variety of conditions including heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, obesity, and reduced insulin sensitivity.
The researchers reviewed other current scientific studies concerning breakfast and heart disease and found that those who eat breakfast daily are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure, while those who skip breakfast and instead snack and graze throughout the day are more likely to be obese, have poor nutrition, or be diagnosed with diabetes.
They analysed other studies that found people who skip breakfast have a 27 per cent increased risk of suffering from a heart attack, and are 18 per cent more likely to have a stroke.
Professor Marie-Pierre St-Onge, lead author of the study, said: "Meal timing may affect health due to its impact on the body's internal clock.
"In animal studies, it appears that when animals receive food while in an inactive phase, such as when they are sleeping, their internal clocks are reset in a way that can alter nutrient metabolism, resulting in greater weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation.
"However, more research would need to be done in humans before that can be stated as a fact."
There is still some debate in the scientific community about the benefits of eating breakfast. In a 2016 study, research suggested that claims breakfast is the most important meal of the day have very little scientific basis.
Dr James Betts, a senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Bath said the idea breakfast is inherently good for us may stem from marketing campaigns designed to sell us cereals, eggs and bacon, and the 'benefits' of eating early haven't actually been scrutinised properly.
He said: "The problem is that these benefits although logical sounding, are largely assumptions based on observational studies and had never actually been tested.
"As soon as doctors find out that an overweight patient skips breakfast they'll often tell them to make sure they eat it every day. But should we not know more about the health effects? We try not to give other health advice without evidence, so why are we more lax with breakfast?"
The researchers from Columbia University writing in Circulation also found that eating late at night could lead to a greater risk of poor cardiometabolic health. In one of the studies analysed it was found that late-night snackers are more likely to be obese when compared to those who don't eat after a certain hour.
The researchers wrote: "The impact of meal timing, particularly related to the evening meal, deserves further study.
"Epidemiological findings suggest a potential detrimental effect of late meals on cardiometabolic health, but clinical intervention studies, which would address causality, have been limited in scope and too diverse to draw definitive conclusions and make recommendations."
Professor St-Onge added: "We suggest eating mindfully, by paying attention to planning both what you eat and when you eat meals and snacks, to combat emotional eating.
"Many people find that emotions can trigger eating episodes when they are not hungry, which often leads to eating too many calories from foods that have low nutritional value."