Heart Health

19 October 2010

Skipping breakfast ups heart risk

People who reported skipping breakfast during childhood and adulthood had more risk factors for heart disease than their peers who ate a morning meal, reasearch shows.

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New research from Australia provides yet more evidence that skipping breakfast is a bad idea.

People who reported skipping breakfast during childhood and adulthood had more risk factors for heart disease than their peers who ate a morning meal at both time points, Dr Kylie J. Smith of the University of Tasmania and her colleagues found.

Some studies have found that people who don't eat breakfast tend to have worse eating behaviours and are less active than people who do, while some research has linked skipping breakfast with weight gain. There is also some evidence that people who don't eat in the morning are more prone to high cholesterol.

Long-term effects of not eating breakfast

To investigate the long-term effects of not eating breakfast, Smith and her team analysed data from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, in which participants were surveyed in 1985, when they were nine to 15 years old, and again in 2004-2005.

According to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children were categorised as not eating breakfast if they said they didn't eat anything before school, while adults were considered to have skipped breakfast if they didn't eat between 6am and 9 am.

Among nearly 2,200 study participants, about 1,400 didn't skip breakfast at either time point; 224 only skipped breakfast in childhood; 515 only skipped breakfast as adults; and 86 skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood.

Broader waistlines

The researchers found that people who consistently didn't eat breakfast had waists that were nearly 2 inches (or 5cm) larger, on average, than people who ate breakfast as children and as adults. They also had higher insulin levels and higher levels of total cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol.

The researchers did not look at whether skipping breakfast had anything to do with developing cardiovascular disease, for example whether people were more likely to have heart attack or stroke. Nevertheless, the researchers conclude, "Promoting the benefits of eating breakfast could be a simple and important public health message." (Reuters Health/ October 2010)

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