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?