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For a Healthy Heart, Don’t Skip Breakfast!

For a Healthy Heart, Don’t Skip Breakfast!: Main Image
Results showed that people who skipped breakfast had a larger waist size and higher cholesterol
Prior research suggests that breakfast eaters may be healthier than people who skip breakfast, and now a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a nutritious breakfast may be especially good for your heart. Specifically, the recent study shows that regular breakfast eaters may reduce risk factors linked to heart disease.

Breakfast eaters reduce heart disease risk factors

While prior research has shown that skipping breakfast may lower a person’s energy level and increase the risk of weight gain, less is known about the effects of skipping breakfast on other body organs and functions.

In this study, 2,184 participants, 9 to 15 years old, initially filled out a questionnaire about diet and physical activity and stated whether they usually ate breakfast before school or not. Twenty years later, one third of the original participants filled out a meal frequency questionnaire, had their waist size measured, and had blood levels of triglycerides, total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and fasting insulin (insulin levels after no food has been eaten overnight) checked. Participants were then classified into four groups:

  • skipped breakfast in neither childhood nor adulthood,
  • skipped breakfast only in childhood,
  • skipped breakfast only in adulthood, or
  • skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood.

Results showed that people who skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood had a larger waist size and total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared with people who ate breakfast in both childhood and adulthood. They also had higher fasting insulin levels, which indicates they have insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

Breakfast skippers also tended to be single, have a lower education level, and were more likely to smoke, watch TV, get less physical activity, and have a less healthy diet compared with breakfast eaters.

The authors comment, “Skipping breakfast was associated with a larger waist circumference, cardiometabolic risk factors, poorer diet quality, and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.” They add that promoting the benefits of eating breakfast may be an important public health message.

More reasons to be a breakfast eater

There are many good reasons to eat breakfast, and prior research has shown that compared with breakfast skippers, breakfast eaters tend to have:

  • Better habits. People who eat breakfast tend to have healthier diets and get more physical activity.
  • A more nutritious diet. Breakfast eaters tend to eat less daily fat and cholesterol and more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • A healthier weight. Some studies suggest that breakfast eaters have a lower weight compared with breakfast skippers.

(Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.30101.)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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