Yes. Skipping breakfast could hurt your heart, while eating a morning meal creates healthy patterns that protect your heart throughout your adult life.
If you are one of the 31 million American adults who regularly skip breakfast, you may be at risk for developing heart problems.
A scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) has come down firmly on the side of breakfast. Eating breakfast — and perhaps more importantly, eating breakfast mindfully — is good for your heart.
Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? It depends on who you ask.
Some studies say eating breakfast helps you lose weight, some say it doesn’t, while still others show mixed results. Or does eating breakfast improve children’s behavior and focus in school? Research indicates that it does, though that might be because children who go hungry at home are more likely to have behavior problems.
Many of these studies, however, focus on the short-term impact of breakfast. By contrast, the statement from the AHA is concerned with long-term health and eating patterns.
In reviewing breakfast research from multiple studies around the world, the AHA team found consistent evidence that regularly skipping breakfast can negatively impact your eating habits and cardiovascular health.
Weight, body mass index (BMI), and obesity are strong predictors for cardiovascular health, and the ways that eating or not eating breakfast can affect your weight have been the subject of frequent study.
Though some research indicates that skipping breakfast can help weight loss, the AHA points to long-term studies, which found that eating breakfast leads to a more sustainable eating pattern and can help you maintain a healthy BMI and body weight.
According to study data collected from smartphones, adults are moving away from a traditional breakfast-lunch-dinner eating pattern. This shifts your circadian clock, which can create metabolic changes that increase your risk of developing chronic diseases.
In particular, moving away from three defined meals leads to more snacking throughout the day. These irregular eating patterns are strong predictors of obesity, and people who regularly skip breakfast are more likely to snack throughout the day and eat late at night. Skipping breakfast has also been linked to increased waist circumference and high BMI, both risk factors for obesity and heart disease.
Other research has found that specifically eating a healthy, nutrient-dense breakfast is linked to lower levels of obesity and healthier BMI for women. Eating breakfast, the AHA concludes, establishes a healthy eating pattern for the rest of the day and prevents the unhealthy weight-gain that puts you at risk for heart disease.
Other risk factors for heart disease have been linked to skipping breakfast as well.
A 2013 study of adults ages 20 to 39 found that breakfast skippers were more likely to have high levels of unhealthy cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which increase your risk of developing heart disease. A 2015 study of women who regularly skip breakfast found increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can put strain on your heart and lead to high blood pressure.
Skipping breakfast has also been linked to both poor glucose regulation in the body and increased likelihood of type 2 diabetes, both of which are predictors for developing heart disease. And a 2013 study published by the AHA also found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who regularly ate a morning meal.
The statement’s authors do acknowledge that more research needs to be done to assess the health impact of breakfast for minority and low socioeconomic groups, but “the data suggest that making changes that promote more regular intake of energy during the day, perhaps with a greater proportion of calories earlier in the day, has positive effects on risk factors for heart disease.”
In other words, having breakfast creates eating patterns that promote good heart health throughout your adult life.
However, the statement goes on to say that simply eating breakfast may not be enough. To protect your heat, you need to eat mindfully, make deliberate choices about when and what you eat, and focus on your food as you eat rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by other demands or tasks.
“Mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions could lead to healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management,” the statement’s authors conclude. “Ultimately, clinicians may be able to use this information to suggest to patients that a more intentional approach… could be the basis of a healthier lifestyle.”
May 16, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN