Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of Your Life?

Just published in the American Heart Association magazine, Circulation, a large, 16-year study finds men who reported that they skipped breakfast had higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease.

Even after accounting for modest differences in diet, physical activity, smoking, and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast (or eating very late at night) and coronary heart disease persisted.  Researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaire data and tracked health outcomes for 16 years (1992-2008) on 26,902 male health professionals between ages 45-82.

Men who reported they skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported they didn’t.

“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which may, in turn, lead to a heart attack over time,” said Leah E. Cahill, Ph.D., study lead author and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA. “Don’t skip breakfast,” Cahill said. “Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks. Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. For example, adding nuts and chopped fruit to a bowl of whole grain cereal or steel-cut oatmeal in the morning is a great way to start the day.”

One possible reason for this finding is that people who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to be hungrier later in the day and eat larger meals. Those meals mean the body must process a larger amount of calories in a shorter amount of time. That can spike sugar levels in the blood and perhaps lead to clogged arteries.

But is a stack of syrupy pancakes, greasy eggs, and lots of bacon really better than eating nothing?

The researchers did not ask what the study participants ate for breakfast and were not prepared to pass judgment on whether a fatty, sugary breakfast is better than no breakfast at all.

 

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