Skipping breakfast? You're at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease

Missing breakfast is associated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease says a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The new study used self-reported data from 6550 Americans aged 40 to 75 collected between 1988 and 1994, the subjects had no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. There were asked how often they ate breakfast with answers including "every day", "some days", "rarely" and "never" - 5.1% never ate breakfast, 10.9% rarely ate breakfast, 25% ate breakfast some days and 59% always ate breakfast.

Separate data was used to analyze the health of the participants in a follow up period through to 2011, in this time 2,318 participants died with 619 of these being caused by cardiovascular disease.

Those that never ate breakfast had a 87% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease

Adjustments were made for age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, dietary and lifestyle factors, body mass index, and cardiovascular risk factors before the researchers concluded that those that never ate breakfast had a 87% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those that ate breakfast every day.

The researchers reported that missing breakfast was associated with a higher risk of obesity, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. The authors of the study wrote:

"In a nationally representative cohort with 17 to 23 years of follow up, skipping breakfast was associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Our study supports the benefits of eating breakfast in promoting cardiovascular health."

Why is eating breakfast healthier for you?

The researchers behind the study suggest that not eating breakfast is related to changes in appetite and decreased satiety which might lead to overeating later in the day and decreased insulin sensitivity. Compare this to eating breakfast which has a beneficial effect on appetite regulation and improves the glycemic response the next time you eat.

Skipping breakfast was also associated with higher blood pressure due to the effect of the longer fasting period on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. The authors wrote:

"Eating breakfast has also been shown to help lower bloody pressure, which in turn may prevent blood vessel clogging, hemorrhage, and cardiovascular events."

Is it just a case of unhealthy people tending to skip breakfast?

The researchers did make a point highlighting that skipping breakfast could be a behavioral marker for those following an unhealthy diet and lifestyle but stated that the results were adjusted for a number of dietary and lifestyle factors including smoking, drinking, physical activity, total energy intake, overall diet quality and the association between skipping breakfast and death by cardiovascular disease remained significant.

But what about intermittent fasting?

There has been a lot of talk in recent times of the benefits of intermittent fasting which advocates skipping breakfast, in fact there is a fair amount of evidence that fasting can be positive for many people. Priya Tew, a registered dietitian commented:

"For some people, following a fasting-style diet can work. The reason it works is because it restricts their intake of calories but if you're not eating breakfast it can lead to you getting hungrier whereas having a wholegrain, whole fibre breakfast cereal is better in term of your heart health."

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