Oi, you. It doesn’t matter how much of a rush you’re in every morning, you need to bloody well make sure you have some breakfast. No, this isn’t coming from your mum.
It’s coming from science. New research has added weight to the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, by noting a link between skipping breakfast and poor cardiovascular health. Sorry, cereal-skippers. Researchers analysed the health and diets of 4,052 middle-aged men and women working in banks, all with no previous history of cardiovascular disease.
At the start of the study, participants were asked to detail what they’d eaten, and the times they’d eaten it, over the previous 15 days. Alongside meal-related data, researchers collected information on all of the participants body mass index, cholesterol levels, smoking status, and their level of physical activity.
They then used imaging techniques to have a look at the buildup of fatty material in the arteries around the heart and neck. Those who skipped breakfast, or had a teeny-tiny breakfast, were found to have a greater extent of buildup in the arteries, meaning their risk of heart attacks and strokes is increased, compared to those who consumed more than 20% of their daily calories at breakfast time.
75% of those who skip breakfast were found to have sub-clinical atherosclerosis (that’s the medical term for the buildup of fat), and the link between skipping breakfast and poor cardiovascular health held true even when other factors such as smoking and high blood pressure were taken into account.
But before you start praising the magical powers of a bowl of cereal in the morning, there’s some data within the research to take in. Participants who skipped breakfast were also more likely to have a lifestyle that was unhealthy overall, including a poor diet, frequent alcohol consumption, and smoking.
So it may not be that skipping breakfast is to blame for heart disease, but that those who are more likely to have heart disease thanks to poor lifestyles are also more likely to skip breakfast. Basically, healthier people are more likely to eat breakfast. Get it?
Researchers reckon that breakfast skipping could be down to people trying to lose weight in unhealthy ways, explaining why rates of obesity were also increased in those who skipped breakfasts, or that skipping breakfast disrupts the pattern of eating, making people eat more calories at unusual times throughout the day. Essentially, it’s not just about whether or not you have breakfast – it’s about how that sets you up for healthy choices for the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast as an attempt to be healthy isn’t as wise as just paying attention to what food you’re putting into your body throughout the day. The researchers plan to follow their participants for over a decade to see how disease in the arteries progresses, so over time, we should get a clearer picture of the link between skipping breakfast and poor cardiovascular health. But for now, bear in mind that skipping meals is never a good idea. Eat at regular times, don’t go hungry, and if you’re worrying about your weight, remember that starving yourself isn’t the answer – even if you think it’s just for one meal.