The most important meal of the day just earned a little more respect. Doctors, nutritionists, and others in the health care arena generally agree that skipping a morning meal ranks as one of the biggest diet faux pas of all time. However, a more important justification for breakfast is supported by a new study just released in the journal Circulation. The results of this research suggest a link between missing breakfast and an increase in heart disease.
Many Americans routinely forego breakfast due to busy work schedules and mornings consumed with multitasking. Approximately 10% of the population admits to missing out on a nutritional start to the day. Past medical studies have shown a link between missing a balanced morning meal and chronic conditions such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Beginning the day with a nutritious meal jump-starts the body’s metabolism to aid in the fat burning process. After a long night of sleep the body craves nutrients first thing. If that craving is not met, one’s metabolism goes into starvation mode causing the body to hold onto fat. Those who skip out on early mealtime often overeat later in the day after the metabolism has slowed, leading to unhealthy weight gain and potential obesity. Elisabetta Politi, RD, MPH, nutrition manager for the Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical School states, “When you don’t eat breakfast, you’re actually fasting for 15 to 20 hours, so you’re not producing the enzymes needed to metabolize fat to lose weight.” The new Circulation study now uncovers more hardships for breakfast skippers with evidence tying the missed meal to a greater risk of coronary heart disease.
The study followed 26,902 men in the United States aged 45-82 over a 16-year period. These participants completed hundreds of questionnaires about their eating habits. Roughly 13% of the control group admitted to regularly missing breakfast.
The researchers found that the men who did not eat breakfast had a 27% greater chance of experiencing a heart attack. They also concluded that these men were more likely to engage in other unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and consumption of large quantities of alcohol. Investigators were surprised to discover that the timing of meals played a role in the development of heart disease. The men in the study who habitually ate right before bed suffered a 55% increase in heart attacks compared to others in the study.
The questionnaires did not ask what the participants ate for their meals, so the authors could not conclude whether eating a stack of pancakes, bacon, and sausage every morning could lower the risk of heart disease. Andrew Odegaard, a University of Minnesota researcher contributing to the study admitted that “We don’t know whether it’s the timing or content of breakfast that’s important. It’s probably both.” He also suggested that those who consciously chose to have breakfast tended to eat a healthier more rounded diet overall. Regardless, breakfast has received another notch on the belt, and remains the most important meal of the day. Missing out on the early morning meal has been proven more hazardous than ever.