Skipping Breakfast: Heart Disease Risk Increases By 27 Percent In Men Who Don't Eat A Morning Meal [STUDY]
"Men who skip breakfast are more likely to gain weight, to develop diabetes, to have hypertension and to have high cholesterol," said Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and the study's senior author.
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While other studies have suggested a connection between eating breakfast and things like obesity and blood pressure, "no studies looked at long-term risk of heart attack," said Rimm.
So what might be the connection between skipping breakfast and heart disease?
The researchers say that skipping breakfast and heart disease are linked because skipping breakfast can lead to heart disease "risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time."
In the study into skipping breakfast, researchers looked at a number of food questionnaires from a 16-year period. This included information on the food habits of 26,903 men between ages 45 and 82. During this 16-year period, 1,572 of the men had a cardiac event for the first time.
The researchers found that skipping breakfast lead to a 27 percent jump in the risk of having a heart attack or dying from coronary heart disease. Researchers also accounted for heart risk factors other than skipping breakfast, including the men's sleep, their alcohol consumption and whether they smoked.
In addition to their findings about skipping breakfast and heart disease, the researchers found that eating at night can be dangerous too. The study found that men who ate right before bedtime had a 55 percent higher chance of coronary heart disease.
One of the reasons offered by Rimm for why skipping breakfast might lead to heart disease is that men will overindulge on meals later in the day to make up for the calories they missed at breakfast.
"It's the extra strain on the body of eating more calories during the few times in a day they do eat," Rimm said.
One thing the skipping breakfast study didn't look into, however, was what the men ate for breakfast.
"We don't know whether it's the timing or content of breakfast that's important. It's probably both," said Andrew Odegaard, a University of Minnesota researcher who has studied the health effects of skipping breakfast, but who wasn't involved in this study. Odegaard added that people who eat breakfast generally eat a healthier diet.
"We've focused so much on the quality of food and what kind of diet everyone should be eating, and we don't talk as often on the manner of eating," said Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who wasn't part of the study. "This study is not even discussing the type of food. It's just talking about behavior and lifestyle choice. Part of heart-healthy living is eating breakfast because that prevents you from doing a lot of other unhealthy things."
Leah Cahill, study lead author and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, says the message of her study is clear: skipping breakfast is a bad idea.
"Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks," says Cahill. "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."
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