HEART
August 8, 2013

Time for Breakfast

Having a good breakfast reduces the risk of heart disease and can even help you lose weight.

Breakfast, it has long been said, is the most important meal of the day: your body needs more than Starbucks to start the morning off right.

New research provides more evidence to support the importance of a morning meal. Men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of a heart attack or death from coronary heart disease (CHD) when compared to those who ate something in the morning.

“Previous studies have shown that skipping breakfast leads to heart disease risk factors such as adverse changes in blood pressure, insulin, and blood cholesterol levels, so we had a strong hypothesis that regularly skipping breakfast could be associated with coronary events such as heart attacks,” Leah Cahill, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, told TheDoctor in an email.

In addition to an increased risk of CHD among non-breakfast eaters, the researchers found that those who ate late at night (after they went to bed, for example) had a 55 percent higher risk of CHD than those who did not.

The findings are based on the eating habits of almost 27,000 men between the ages of 45 and 82 who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. In addition to an increased risk of CHD among non-breakfast eaters, the researchers found that those who ate late at night (after they went to bed, for example) had a 55 percent higher risk of CHD than those who did not. However, the researchers said that few men in the study reported eating late at night.

“Don't skip breakfast,” says Cahill, lead author on the study. “Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks.”

Ideally, you should eat within one to two hours of waking up. Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and an appropriate balance of nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. For example, add nuts and chopped fruit to a bowl of whole grain cereal or steel-cut oatmeal.

Although the current study enrolled men who were predominantly white and of European descent, the results are applicable to women and other ethnic groups, the researchers said. In fact, another study of women found that those who ate a larger breakfast, one which even included dessert, and a smaller evening meal had significantly lower levels of insulin, glucose, and triglycerides throughout the day, which lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

The Harvard study is published online in the journal Circulation

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