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Careful What You Skip, Especially if it’s Breakfast

Careful What You Skip, Especially if it’s Breakfast

There is a certain member of my extended family that just never eats breakfast. She wakes early, goes about her day and then (presumably) eats something around 11AM. There is no real rationale to such behavior, other than her insistence that she just “doesn’t need breakfast.” Well I, along with a team of Harvard researchers, beg to differ.

A group of Harvard researchers recently looked at the health records of nearly 27,000 men, all healthcare professionals 45 to 82 years old when the study began. What they found was that those who skipped breakfast were 27 percent more likely to experience a heart attack or die as the result of coronary heart disease. The men who skipped breakfast were more likely to be single, smokers, employed full-time, to drink more alcohol, were younger, and were less likely to be physically active than people who ate breakfast.

There is obviously somewhat of a corollary here between lifestyle choices and the choice to forgo breakfast. So why more heart attacks for those who skipped breakfast? Well, if you opt out of breakfast you are literally extending the “fast” instead of breaking it. This puts a certain amount of regular stress on your body; in particular your heart. Prolonged fasting leads to increases in diastolic and systolic blood pressure, blood concentrations of insulin, triglycerides, free fatty acids and LDL-cholesterol, and to decreases in blood concentrations of HDL-cholesterol, all of which get you closer and closer to chronic heart problems.

According to one of the researchers on the project, “Our bodies need to be fed food regularly in order to maintain healthy levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol, hormones such as insulin, and normal blood pressure.” That said, researchers were quick to differentiate periodic fasting (e.g. fasting for Ramadan) with regularly skipping breakfast, as periodic fasting doesn’t seem to have a lasting impact on overall cardio-vascular health.

I guess the takeaway from such a study is to be mindful of your metabolism and institute some sort of regularity when it comes to food intake. And to be sure, eating a healthy breakfast with whole grains and fresh fruit is obviously going to be a far more preferable path than a breakfast laden with processed foods and sugar.

Do you regularly skip breakfast, and if so, why? Will such information change your habits?

Related:
6 Breakfast Superfoods

Read more: Blogs, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, General Health, Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, High Blood Pressure, Men's Health, , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

63 comments

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3:23AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

Hmm, I didn't eat breakfast when I still went to school because it was just too early, and I just can't eat at 6am... so no, I'm not going to change that. Now that I get up at 7:30 I eat breakfast early if I don't come home until 10 (if I do, I only eat breakfast at 10). If I don't have to get up early, I eat around 10 or 11. So yes, eventually I do eat my breakfast, but sometimes it's 2-3 hours after waking up :)

3:04AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

Ooh...err... I've done it again!

8:13PM PST on Jan 28, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

3:13AM PDT on Aug 3, 2013

Darn, the system, or my evil computer, lost my post! It's 11am and I haven't yet had breakfast, (only orange juice and white coffee wth sweeteners).. Guess why I'm late? I've got carried away posting in Care2! A reminder to spend less time here? I think so!

2:06PM PDT on Jul 31, 2013

I used to eat as soon as I awoke, but now that I work at home, I eat Kimchee or yogurt first thing then I wait until 11 AMish to eat more. Indeed this information will prompt me to try to eat first thing in the morning and then bites of food throughout the rest of the day. I heard about the study about a week ago, but the part I heard did not explain why going without breakfast could leave you open for a heart attack. Thanks for the heads-up.

9:36AM PDT on Jul 31, 2013

Thank you for sharing

8:22AM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

Fruit, cereal and yogurt make my breakfast.

4:59PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

"The men who skipped breakfast were more likely to be single, smokers, employed full-time, to drink more alcohol, were younger, and were less likely to be physically active than people who ate breakfast"
So skipping breakfast has nothing to do with it then?

"Prolonged fasting leads to increases in diastolic and systolic blood pressure, blood concentrations of insulin, triglycerides, free fatty acids and LDL-cholesterol, and to decreases in blood concentrations of HDL-cholesterol, all of which get you closer and closer to chronic heart problems."
Really? Fasting raises blood concentrations of insulin? Rubbish!
It was CLEARLY all of their other life style choices that led to their problems.
intermittent fasting (skipping breakfast) has been shown to improve all markers of health in healthy adults.
This study was not performed on healthy adults.

For how much of human evolution have we had a ready source of food when we wake? And for how much of that time has it been breakfast cereal?
I have been personally skipping breakfast for some time and it's only made me healthier and more alert in the mornings. And at an age of 43 with 2 toddlers I have been able reclaim the six pack of my younger days.
How many of you breakfast eaters can claim a six pack with only 2hrs of dedicated exercise a week?
Rubbish article. Do your own research.

8:38AM PDT on Jul 27, 2013

Thanks for posting this information.

3:34PM PDT on Jul 26, 2013

I went for years not eating breakfast (no time) until a couple of years ago, when I decided to
make time for the most important meal of the day. I've never felt better! Many days I don't want lunch, which saves money. I really only eat when I'm hungry, and I'm always hungry in the a.m.

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