If you skip the “most important meal of the day,” you might want to reconsider. Research suggests that avoiding breakfast may increase your chances of heart disease.
Harvard researchers analyzed eating and lifestyle data from 27,000 health professionals dating back to 1992. They concluded that older men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who ate breakfast.
“Eating and diet is a complex behavior and we’re really just beginning to learn more about it,” said Dr. David Siskovick, a University of Washington scientist and professor of Medicine and Epidemiology.
Everybody knows somebody who skips breakfast. Some evidence suggests it’s as high as one in four of us. Some experts think skipping breakfast leads people to eat larger and unhealthier meals later in the day. But the study draws no such conclusions.
“This [study] provides a potential clue that it’s not just what you eat, but it’s potentially when you eat,” said Siskovick. “There’s a variety of possible explanations for this association and they need to be explored further.”
Dr. Siskovick said the Harvard study, published in the
Journal Circulation raises questions about how lifestyle choices affect health. A smaller, related study, found a 55 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease linked to midnight snacks, too.
“While the public is listening to the science and is very interested in knowing whether they can or should skip breakfast, this is preliminary data that suggests that it may not be a good idea to skip breakfast and it may not be a good idea to eat late at night,” he offered.
Without all the answers, Siskovick suggests we follow the dietary recommendations of the American Heart Association to eat more fruits, vegetables and fish and reduce salt, sugary-beverages and processed food.
The breakfast research studied just men, but coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women.