Most important meal of the day: Skipping breakfast linked to heart disease

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Men who skip breakfast are more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and heavier drinkers, finds study.
Men who skip breakfast are more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and heavier drinkers, finds study.

Related tags: Coronary heart disease, Hypertension, Heart disease

Skipping breakfast could increase the risk of heart disease by up to 27%, according to new research.

When we eat could cause adverse metabolic effects increasing the risk of heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease (CHD), suggests a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation​.

According to the study, failing to break the night-time fast is the key point in the increased risk of CHD since it sends the body into a protective overdrive and could lead to insulin resistance.

"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 Dr Leah Cahill, lead author of the Harvard School of Public Health study.

“Skipping breakfast puts strain on your body by continuing the state of fasting,”​ Cahill told FoodNavigator.

The study also found that the men who ate late at night (after going to bed) had a 55% higher CHD risk than those who did not.

Whilst this statistic is high, Cahill and her colleagues suggested that this was less of a major public health concern since only a small number of participants exhibited this eating behaviour.

Study details

The study, which was carried out over a period of 16 years and included 26,902 male health professionals aged 45-82, looked primarily at the effects of eating late at night and skipping breakfast. During the study, 1,572 of the men had first-time cardiac events.

Researchers said they ruled out other possible lifestyle factors that could have increased CHD risk levels in participants. While they found that men who regularly skipped breakfast were more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and heavier drinkers, they were still able to isolate the eating patterns as the defining factor since men leading a different lifestyle still suffered the same adverse effects if they too skipped breakfast.

Though the study found that it was best not to skip breakfast, Dr Cahill refrained from saying whether it was worse to eat an unhealthy breakfast or none at all. The study did not investigate the optimum time to eat breakfast but Dr Cahill suggested that “within one hour after waking is best.”

Source: Circulation

Vol. 128, Iss. 4, pp 337-343, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.001474

“Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals”

Authors: Leah E. Cahill, Stephanie E. Chiuve, Rania A. Mekary, Majken K. Jensen, Alan J. Flint, Frank B. Hu and Eric B. Rimm

Related topics: Science

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4 comments

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No Breakfast- the Healthiest Way

Posted by Stella H Howell,

The Healthiest lifestyle is one without Breakfast.

Should one be hungry, a small quantity of fruit can be eaten. (No oranges in the morning!& certainly milk should be excluded from the diet)
Man is the only species that drinks the milk of another species, besides, drinks milk when adults.

The first meal should be lunch.
Exclude processed, man made foods.
We are what we eat.

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Morning exercise

Posted by Tove Bladt,

Some people are doing exercise as first thing in the morning like running, spinning etc, meaning before having breakfast. Would this even more send the body into a protection overdrive resulting in even higher risk for CHD?

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Author response

Posted by Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn,

Hi Nicole, thanks for your comment. The researchers were concerned about this interference of other factors too and so controlled for it. What they concluded then was NOT that eating breakfast cancels out health risks of other unhealthy habits (i.e. smoking, drinking, working too much), but that unfortunately even if you lead a healthy lifestyle in all other senses skipping breakfast will still have this same negative effect in terms of CHD. Doesn't seem fair really does it?

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