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Oct 02, 2017

Skipping Breakfast Spells Trouble for Heart Health

A wholesome breakfast is one of many choices that contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day for heart health, based on a recent study that found skipping breakfast is associated with nearly three times greater risk for heart disease.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study looked at the association between breakfast consumption and risk for heart disease. Many studies have linked skipping breakfast to a poorer overall diet, unhealthy lifestyle choices and poorer heart health. This study further explored the impact of skipping breakfast on risk for heart disease in seemingly healthy adults.

The study included more than 4,000 middle-aged adults in the PESA study (Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis), which tracked the health of bankers in Madrid, Spain for six years. During the study, participants completed detailed dietary questionnaires and underwent cardiac imaging to assess the health of their arteries.

While participants were seemingly healthy at the start of the study, detailed imaging showed 13% of participants had underlying heart disease. When comparing dietary habits with imaging results, researchers found that skipping breakfast was associated with significantly greater risk for heart disease.

Based on dietary surveys completed through the study, most participants had what researchers call a low-energy breakfast, making up anywhere from 5-20% of participants’ total daily caloric intake. Roughly one-third had a high-energy breakfast (greater than 20% of daily caloric intake) and 3% skipped breakfast regularly (breakfast made up less than 5% of daily calories).

After analysis, researchers found that participants skipping breakfast had 2.6 times greater risk for heart disease than those who consumed a high-energy breakfast.

According to authors, findings stress the importance of incorporating a healthy breakfast into a daily routine. Many studies have linked skipping breakfast to poorer health, and this study confirms the association between skipping breakfast and increased cardiovascular risk, even in adults with no symptoms of heart disease.

However, it’s important to note that this study does not prove that breakfast itself causes a decrease in cardiovascular risk. Experts explain that the association between breakfast and heart health is complex. Breakfast may just be one dietary factor that affects heart health. Studies suggest that individuals skipping breakfast tend to have unhealthier lifestyles, such as smoking, heavy drinking and physical inactivity. These habits tend to go hand in hand. Together, these poor lifestyle choices take a toll on heart health over time.

However, starting the day with a wholesome breakfast is one of many choices that can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and improved heart health.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

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