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Don't skip it: Missing breakfast may damage arteries

03 October 2017

In 2003, researchers at the Harvard Medical School who had tracked the breakfast habits and health of over 2,700 adults for eight years found that breakfast eaters were significantly less likely to be obese or to develop diabetes.

Atherosclerosis was observed more frequently among participants who skipped breakfast and was also higher in participants who consumed low-energy breakfasts compared to those who ate healthy breakfast. Those who had low-calorie breakfasts were at increased risk for early signs of plaque in their arteries, as well.

"This study provides evidence that this (skipping breakfast) is one bad habit people can change to reduce their risk of heart disease", Valentin Fuster, director of the Mount Sinai Heart and editor-in-chief of the journal, said.

What's more, this link held up even whether other factors such as smoking and high blood pressure were taken into account. A study shows that skipping breakfast can enlarge your waist.

This research is part of the Progression and Early Detection of Atherosclerosis Study or PESA, conducted under the supervision of the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III or CNIS in Spain.

Based on this, the team divided the participants into three breakfast-eating groups. Some three percent of the participants fit in this category. Although this study didn't specifically analyze the nutritional content of the breakfasts reported (the focus was on the percentage of daily calories), the questionnaires did assess other measures of daily diet and lifestyle. Some 70 percent of the participants were included in this category. Skipping breakfast is also known to mess with the glucose levels, staying on an empty stomach for long may have severe health repercussions.

Commenting on the study, Dr Prakash Deedwania, from the University of California, San Francisco, said: "Between 20 and 30 per cent of adults skip breakfast and these trends mirror the increasing prevalence of obesity and associated cardiometabolic abnormalities".

They found that people who ate less than five percent of their recommended daily calories at breakfast had, on average, double the amount of fatty buildup in the arteries as people who ate a high-energy breakfast. Of the 4,052 participants, 2.9 percent skipped breakfast, 69.4 percent were low-energy breakfast consumers and 27.7 percent were breakfast consumers.

Compared to people who had a hearty breakfast, individuals who had a light breakfast were still 21 percent more likely to have damage in a major artery in the neck and 17 percent more likely to have damage in a major blood vessel in the abdominal area.

The researchers described a high-energy breakfast as a cup of coffee, fruit, milk or yoghurt and wholemeal break with tomato and olive oil.

The study had several limitations.

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.

Don't skip it: Missing breakfast may damage arteries