Even though most people have heard the phrase “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day", skipping breakfast is becoming more and more common. In fact, nearly a quarter of young people never consume this meal.
Skipping breakfast has already been linked to higher rates of overweight and obesity. Now, a new study shows that skipping breakfast is associated with a higher risk of death from both heart disease and stroke.
Scientists followed over 6,500 individuals for some 20 years and found that those who reported never eating breakfast were nearly 2.5 times more likely to die of heart disease as compared to those who ate breakfast each and every day. What’s more, the never breakfast eaters were also 3.5 times more likely to die of stroke. This association held even after controlling for multiple potential lifestyle confounders and traditional heart disease risk factors.
An association is not causation. But skipping breakfast appears to impact our physiology in a way that puts us at higher risk for a multitude of health issues that, together, could lead to higher rates of fatal stroke and heart events.
First, skipping breakfast can lead to overeating later - and we know habitual overeating negatively affects how our bodies handle blood sugar. By contrast, other studies have shown that eating breakfast has a beneficial effect on appetite regulation and also improves blood sugar levels after the next meal. It appears that eating breakfast helps improve our bodies' overall sensitivity to insulin.
Second, we know that improved insulin sensitivity leads to better cholesterol numbers. So habitually eating breakfast can, in and of itself, help improve cholesterol control.
Finally, skipping breakfast has been shown to negatively affect regions of the brain that control blood pressure, leading to higher readings. Conversely, eating breakfast has been shown to help lower blood pressure.