Sometimes a coffee on the go is all we get to consume in a particular morning — and that can cause all sorts of problems in the long-run. Studies show that breakfast jump-starts the metabolism helping you burn more calories throughout the day. In other words, eating this morning meal actually helps you lose weight, not gain it. Now, a new study underscores the importance of eating breakfast every day, finding that people who skipped breakfast had a significantly higher risk of death from heart disease.
Shuang Rong and colleagues at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology in China and the University of Iowa examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The study spanned a period between 1988 and 1994 with an average follow-up of 18 years, involving more than 6,550 American participants, aged 40 to 75 years.
At the study’s onset, the participants had no prior record of cardiovascular disease or cancer. They were simply asked how often they eat breakfast, to which they could answer “every day”, “some days”, “rarely”, and “never”. Among them, 5.1% said they never ate breakfast, 10.9% did so rarely, 25% occasionally, and 59% ate breakfast every morning.
The researchers found that participants who never ate breakfast had an 87% higher risk of cardiovascular disease-specific mortality than those who ate it every day. What’s more, skipping breakfast was also associated with changes in appetite and decreased satiety, elevated blood pressure, and harmful changes in lipid levels.
We should note that the findings are correlative, and did not establish causation. People who skip breakfast generally have other unhealthy lifestyle habits which each contribute to the risk of premature death. The reason why having breakfast each day may stave off heart disease may have to do with weight control. Our blood sugar control is best early in the day. When we eat dinner late, that’s when we’re most vulnerable because our blood sugar is worst. According to research from the University of Surrey and University of Aberdeen, eating late impairs blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Their preliminary results suggest that a bigger breakfast is beneficial for weight control.
Nevertheless, the significant association identified by this new study suggest that deciding to eat breakfast might be one of the most impactful lifestyle changes that a person can do in order to improve their health.
Scientific reference: “Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality,” Shuang Rong, Linda G. Snetselaar, Guifeng Xu, et al., Journal of the American College of Cardiology, VOL. 73, NO. 16, 2019, DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.01.065.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.