High-fat breakfast may trump toast and juice

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 8th April 2010

Eating a high-fat breakfast may combat the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Bacon and Eggs

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, fed mice two different diets with the same number of calories – one with a high-fat meal after waking, and one with a high-fat meal at the end of the day. The mice who ate a fatty meal at the end of the day had more symptoms of metabolic syndrome – increased weight gain, adiposity and glucose intolerance.

The study’s leading author, Dr Molly Bray, said that fat intake on waking up seems to turn on fat metabolism very efficiently, and also turns on an animal’s ability to respond to different foods later in the day.

By contrast, a carbohydrate meal on waking seemed to turn on only carbohydrate metabolism.

“The first meal you have appears to program your metabolism for the rest of the day,” said study senior author Dr Martin Young.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, insulin resistance (glucose intolerance), low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and high ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL). Anyone suffering from three or more of the above symptoms is considered to have metabolic syndrome, greatly increasing risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

According to Nutrition Australia, the exact frequency of metabolic syndrome isn’t known, but is widespread among adult populations in the developed world. A US study from 1994 found 7% of adults in their twenties affected and 43% of 60-69 year olds suffering, and obesity rates have skyrocketed since that time.

Bray and Young said that further research needs to test whether similar observations are made with different types of dietary fats and carbohydrates, and also that the theory needs to be tested in humans to see if the findings are similar.