Eating meals late at night is putting millions of Britons at danger of suffering heart attacks, doctors are reported to have warned.
Having dinner within two hours of going to bed can leave the body on “high alert”.
It means that blood pressure does not fall properly overnight.
This increases the risk to the heart.
Experts recommended that adults should ideally eat dinner before 7pm to allow the body time to wind down and rest.
They warned that eating late can do more damage to the heart than having a diet high in salt, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Cardiologists at a Turkish university studied more than 700 men and women with high blood pressure.
They sought to establish what difference eating times and the consistency of their diet had on their health.
Eating dinner later was found to have the most significant impact on blood pressure during the night.
Those doing so are almost twice as likely to suffer from “non-dipper hypertension”, when pressure fails to drop properly overnight.
Blood pressure is meant to fall by 10%, but almost 25% of those who ate dinner within two hours of going to bed did not experience their pressure falling sufficiently overnight, compared with 14.2% who ate earlier.
Late eating encouraged the productions of stress hormones such as adrenaline, the Telegraph said.
It also could affect circadian rhythms.
People who missed breakfast were also less likely to see the important fall in pressure.
However, missing breakfast had less impact than late-night eating did.
Dr Ebru Ozpelit, associate professor of cardiology at Dokuz Eylul University in Imir, Turkey, said that modern life and things such as artificial lighting meant people are more likely to eat later in the day. They take up “erratic” eating habits, she said.
Dr Ozpelit told the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Rome: “We must define the ideal frequency and timing of meals because how we eat may be as important as what we eat.”