Conventional wisdom says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and new research certainly isn’t disagreeing with that: skipping breakfast, scientists have found, could significantly increase your risk of a heart attack or developing fatal coronary heart disease.
Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health studied 27,000 men and found that those who skipped breakfast were at greater risk of serious heart problems.
Publishing in the journal Circulation, researchers detailed how missing that first meal of the day may put an “extra strain” on the body that, in a statistically significant number of cases, appeared to be detrimental to the subjects’ health — or even fatal.
The men involved in this analysis were all aged between 45 and 82 and were studied for 16 years. Over the course of that time, subjects had more than 1,500 heart attacks or died as a result of heart failure. In addition, 1,572 men experienced a cardiac event for the first time.
When differentiating based on lifestyle factors, and adjusting for choices like smoking and exercise, those who skipped breakfast were around 27% more likely to have serious heart problems than those who enjoyed the average breakfast.
Furthermore, regularly skipping breakfast was associated with a higher risk of developing other conditions, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance — which leads to diabetes — and high cholesterol.
Lead researcher Dr Leah Cahill told the Independent that eating within an hour of waking up appeared to be specifically important, saying:
We ruled out everything except for the timing of the meal – the actual breaking of fast. When your body is fasting it goes into a protective drive, raising your blood pressure, raising levels of insulin and cholesterol. If you don’t [eat] breakfast in the morning you’re putting an extra strain on your body after it’s already been fasting all night.
Interestingly, Dr Cahill said the data also showed that eating late at night may have a detrimental effect because it “doesn’t let the body digest [food] properly. That could cause the same things, high blood pressure, weight gain, changes in blood sugar levels.”
The research pointed to a 55% higher risk of coronary heart disease for those men who ate substantial meals late at night.
Previous research has said that skipping breakfast can make both men and women overeat at lunchtime and make them more likely to choose unhealthy foods. Other research has demonstrated a link between skipping breakfast and an increased likelihood of obesity. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that kids who do not eat breakfast perform less well in school.
This new data says that eating mostly anything at all for breakfast is better than skipping the meal entirely as, presumably, this provided the body with energy and reduced the strain that would have otherwise been felt.
Eating a healthy and balanced breakfast meal was evidenced to provide the most benefits, however, but that meal doesn’t need to be a large one.
Healthy meal choices for breakfast are said to include cereals or toast that are made from whole grains as opposed to the heavily refined varieties. Fresh fruit, natural yogurt and porridge are also good, quick options.
As such, it increasingly seems there’s just no good reason — or excuse — for most of us to dodge that first, important meal of the day.
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