It is common knowledge that breakfast is a healthy way to start a day; however, many with a busy schedule rush off in the morning without one. This practice is common among professional men who claim they don’t have time to sit down at the breakfast table in the morning. According to a new study, skipping breakfast significantly increased the risk of a heart attack among male healthcare professionals.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death and premature death in the county. The study authors noted that, among adults, skipping meals is associated with excess body weight, hypertension, insulin resistance, and elevated fasting lipid concentrations. However, they noted that it is currently unknown whether specific eating habits regardless of dietary composition influence coronary heart disease risk. Therefore, they conducted a prospective (forward-looking) study to examine eating habits and risk of coronary heart disease.
In 1992, eating habits, including breakfast eating, were assessed among 26,902 American men 45 to 82 years of age from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Approximately 13% of them said they regularly skipped breakfast. They all were educated healthcare professionals such as dentists and veterinarians and were at least 45. At the study onset, all were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The investigators did not ask what the study participants ate for breakfast; thus, they were not prepared to pass judgment on whether a fatty, sugary breakfast is better than no breakfast at all. During 16 years of follow-up, 1,527 coronary heart disease cases were diagnosed.
Statistical analysis was done and was adjusted for demographic, diet, lifestyle, and other cardiovascular disease risk factors. The investigators found that men who skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared with men who did not (1.27-fold increased risk). Compared with men who did not eat late at night, those who ate late at night had a 55% higher coronary heart disease (1.55-fold increased risk). These associations were heightened by body mass index, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes mellitus. No association was observed between eating frequency (times per day) and risk of coronary heart disease.
The authors concluded that eating breakfast was associated with significantly lower coronary heart disease risk in this group of male healthcare professionals. They noted that it was an observational study; therefore, it was not designed to prove a cause and effect. Despite that, these types of studies can point out health risks. They theorized that individuals who do not eat breakfast are more likely to be hungrier later in the day and eat larger meals. Those meals mean the body must process a larger amount of calories in a shorter amount of time. That can elevate sugar levels in the blood and perhaps lead to clogged arteries.
Take home message:
This study did not analyze the content of the breakfast; thus, it could not determine whether an unhealthy breakfast (i.e., syrup-drenched pancakes and greasy preserved meats) was better than no breakfast at all. However, it is obvious that an unhealthy breakfast is a poor choice for anyone interested in cardiovascular health. The best practice for cardiovascular health is to sit down for a few minutes each morning and consume healthy food. Although the study group comprised males only, the findings likely apply to women as well.