Skipping breakfast may be risky to your health

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th December 2010

cereal energyA study conducted by Menzies Research Institute Tasmania (Menzies) suggests that skipping breakfast over a long period of time may increase risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and funded by grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Heart Foundation, the Tasmanian Community Fund, and Veolia Environmental Services, examined data from a national study to compare breakfast habits to health risk factors.

First author and chief investigator of the paper, PhD student Ms Kylie Smith, said results from the study show that not only is breakfast good for weight management, but it is also good for reducing other risk factors for heart disease and diabetes such as blood insulin and cholesterol levels.

“People who reported skipping breakfast both during childhood and adulthood had more risk factors for diabetes and heart disease than their peers who ate breakfast at both times in the study,” Smith said.

The investigation was part of the national Childhood Determinants of Adult Health (CDAH) study. Over 2,000 participants were involved with the breakfast-skipping study.

“We used data from a large nation-wide study with a 20 year follow-up from childhood to early adulthood,” said Smith. “Compared to those who ate breakfast both as a child and an adult, those who skipped breakfast on both occasions had a larger waist circumference, and had higher fasting insulin, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), which are all risk factors for heart disease and diabetes,” Smith said.

Skipping breakfast is a fairly common practice, with 23% of adults and 10% of children reporting they did not regularly eat breakfast in the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (Australia), and there is evidence that skipping breakfast is becoming more common.

“We’ve always known that eating breakfast helps with concentration, weight control and good nutrition, but this study provides further evidence that breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” said Ms Susan Anderson, National Director – Healthy Weight, Heart Foundation.

“If parents wanted to do just one thing to help ensure the good health of their children now and into the future, it could be to make sure that no-one leaves the house in the mornings without breakfast.”

“Wholegrain breakfast cereals with reduced fat milk, baked beans or poached eggs on wholegrain toast, fresh fruit and reduced fat yoghurt are all quick and easy nutritious breakfasts that will help set the family up for the day,” Anderson said.

Senior author and Menzies’ Deputy Director Professor Alison Venn said that the findings support healthy, balanced eating, and that a healthy breakfast is an important part of this.

“Promoting the benefits of eating breakfast could be a simple and important public health message,” she said.