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Skipping breakfast increases risks of diseases

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, scientists argue in a new study which reveals that skipping it increases risks of diseases.

Meal timing and frequency are essential components of a healthy life style and scientists argue that after looking at data, breakfast seems to be indeed, the most important meal of the day. Consuming more calories early in the morning and less during dinner may also reduce the risks of a heart attacks, strokes or other cardiac diseases.

Researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaire data and tracked health outcomes for 16 years, from 1992 to 2008, on 26,902 male health professionals ages 45-82. According to the American Heart Association, the findings underlined the importance of the morning meal.


The men who reported not eating breakfast were younger than those who did, and were more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and drank more alcohol. And those who reported they skipped breakfast had a 27 per cent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported they didn’t.

Late night snacking made men 55 per cent per more likely to develop higher coronary heart disease than those who didn’t. But researchers were less convinced this was a major public health concern because few men in the study reported this behavior.

During the study, 1,572, almost six percent, of the men had first-time cardiac events.

“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,” says 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.

While the study focused on men, doctors say that the results may apply to women, as well as other ethnic groups. And when it comes to preparing breakfast, everyone should strive to serve a balanced meal that includes minerals, carbohydrates and vitamins.

“Don’t skip breakfast,” Cahill says. “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.”

And this study was by no means the first medical one to highlight the way in which meal timing impacts overall health and increases or reduces the risk of disease.


Published in the journal Circulation, another analysis found that irregular eating patterns appear less favorable for achieving a healthy cardiometabolic profile. Intentional eating with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions could lead to healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management.

But there seems to be little attention given to the scientific findings since skipping breakfast has become akin a national sport in developed countries and adults are not the only ones joining the trend.

In America, it is reported that 12 per cent of people rarely have breakfast while only 47% said that they never skip this meal of the da,y. And even among those that try to keep up with this healthy habit, over 20 per cent give up when they are pressed for time.

Breakfast is the meal most likely to be skipped in the United States while only 7 per cent said that they’ve missed dinner.

And data coming from the United Kingdom is not more encouraging. One in two Brits skip breakfast and this meal is the first they give up on when it comes to staying in bed late or having too little time. And this becomes a problem even for children which end up going to school on an empty stomach.

This behavior continues through adolescence and a study done in Finland on twins reported that breakfast skipping was associated with low family socioeconomic status in adults and adolescent boys, but not in girls.

Breakfast skipping overlapped with smoking, alcohol use, and sedentary lifestyle in both adults and adolescents and was also associated with health-compromising behaviors in adults and adolescents. Also, those that regularly skipped breakfast were less likely to exercise than those that infrequently jumped over the first meal of the day.

Sylvia Jacob