Skipping breakfast may increase heart disease risk and make losing weight more difficult, US study

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 29th July 2013

Missing breakfast may increase the risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease, according to a new study published on 22 July 2013 in the American Heart Association Journal ‘Circulation’. Another study, funded by cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s found that US adolescents who ate breakfast had more success with losing weight and maintaining this weight loss for up to two years.

Breakfast lowers risk of heart disease in men

A large 16-year study has found that men who reported that they skipped breakfast a 27 per cent higher risk of heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease than those who reported that they ate breakfast. Even after accounting for modest differences in diet, physical activity, smoking and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast (or eating very late at night) and coronary heart disease persisted.

Researchers analysed food frequency questionnaire data and tracked health outcomes for the 16 years between 1992 and 2008 on 26,902 male health professionals aged 45-82.

Other findings included:

  • The men who reported not eating breakfast were younger than those who did, and were more likely to smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and to drink more alcohol
  • Men who reported eating late at night (eating after going to bed) had a 55 per cent higher coronary heart disease risk than those who didn’t. But researchers said they were less convinced this was a major public health concern because few men in the study reported this behaviour.
  • During the study, 1,572 of the men had first-time cardiac events

“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time,” said Leah E. Cahill, PhD, study lead author and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Health in Boston.

“Don’t skip breakfast,” Dr Cahill said. “Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks. Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. For example, adding nuts and chopped fruit to a bowl of whole grain cereal or steel-cut oatmeal in the morning is a great way to start the day,” she said.

Eating habits matter

Men who reported eating breakfast ate on average one more time per day than those who skipped breakfast, implying that those who abstained from breakfast were not eating additional make-up meals later in the day. Although there was some overlap between those who skipped breakfast and those who ate late at night, 76 per cent of late-night eaters also ate breakfast, researchers said.

“Our study group has spent decades studying the health effects of diet quality and composition, and now this new data suggests overall dietary habits can be important to lower the risk of coronary heart disease,” said Eric Rimm, ScD, senior author and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.

Study method

The study collected comprehensive questionnaire data from the participants and accounted for many important factors such as television watching, physical activity, sleep, diet quality, alcohol intake, medical history, Body Mass Index (BMI), and social factors such as whether or not the men worked full-time, were married, saw their doctor regularly for physical exams, or smoked currently or in the past.

The current study group was composed of men who were 97 per cent white European descent. Researchers said the results should also apply to women and other ethnic groups, but this should be tested in additional studies.

Other co-authors were Stephanie Chiuve Sc.D, Rania Mekary Ph.D, Majken Jensen Ph.D, Alan Flint MD, Dr Ph and Frank Hu MD PhD. The authors had no relevant disclosures.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and a Canandian Institutes of Health Resaerch Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to Dr Cahill.

Adolescents who eat breakfast and afternoon snack lose weight, keep it off

Meanwhile, adolescents who ate a cereal breakfast, exercised and took part in nutrition education, were more likely to lose weight and keep it off, according to a separate study from US-based Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas.

The study, which was funded by Kellogg’s and the USDA and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, involved more than 70 Mexican-American adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 in a middle school in Houston.

During the initial six-month study, the adolescents were offered a cereal breakfast each morning, received nutrition education once a week, and exercised four times a week. They were also provided with a snack before leaving school. After six months, the group of adolescents had “significantly lowered” their BMI and received no further interventions.

“Before they go home is an important time to provide kids a healthy snack because if they are unsupervised when they get home, they tend to overeat,” said Dr Craig Johnston, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and lead investigator of the study.

Weight loss maintained two years on

Two years later, the researchers returned and found that those who had participated in the study had maintained a lower BMI compared to their classmates who were only given a manual on how to manage body weight.

According to Dr Johnston, this is one of the first studies to show that education, exercise and a nutritious breakfast and snack can help adolescents not only lose weight, but also maintain weight loss in the long term.

The breakfast and snacks used in the study were provided by Kellogg’s.


Kellogg's and USDA funded study finds eating breakfast helps weight loss