I speak with many people on a daily basis who don’t eat breakfast. If I had to guess, I would say that more people don’t eat breakfast then do. Reasons people give for not eating a morning meal include wanting to sleep in a few more minutes, feeling sick if they eat breakfast, feeling hungry all day if they eat breakfast, or not liking breakfast foods.
Since we were children, we’ve been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There are no evidence-based recommendations, however, for eating patterns for adults. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include breakfast recommendations for children but not adults.
Of all places to find research that supports eating breakfast in the morning, the journal Circulation just published a prospective study of breakfast eating and incidence of coronary heart disease. The study is based on a cohort of male U.S. health professionals ages 45–82, including dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, optometrists, osteopaths and veterinarians.
To date, there have been small prospective studies, and preliminary cross-sectional studies that report eating habits such as skipping meals to be positively associated with several health outcomes such as being overweight, weight gain, dyslipidemia, elevated blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and diabetes mellitus. Prior to this recently published work by Cahill et al there weren’t any published studies linking breakfast or other eating habits to coronary heart disease.
During the 16 years of follow-up, of the 26,902 American men, 1,527 cases of CHD were diagnosed. Men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of CHD compared with men who did not. Compared with men who did not eat late at night, men who ate late at night had a 55 percent higher risk of CHD. There was no association observed between eating frequency and risk of CHD. Relative risk and confidence intervals for CHD were adjusted for demographic, diet, lifestyle and other CHD risk factors.
Conclusion: Eating breakfast is associated with significantly lower CHD risk in this cohort of male health professionals, and I don’t see why we can’t make the leap and carry the same lower CHD risk over to women. So, another reason to eat your breakfast.
People who eat breakfast have a healthier diet overall. Breakfast skippers don’t get adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. They are usually deficient in calcium and other minerals. Breakfast skippers snack more often, eat more sugary, high-fat snacks, drink more soda, are more likely to overeat at night, and are more often overweight or obese than breakfast eaters. To date, there have only been demonstrated links between missing breakfast and these other factors but that doesn’t prove causality. The big question is whether overweight people skip breakfast to lose weight or if skipping breakfast leads to being overweight? Either way, breakfast is important.
Don’t just eat any breakfast, but a healthy breakfast. Suggestions for quick breakfast on the go:
— Greek yogurt – Oikos, Chobani or other brand – great source of protein to carry you through the morning
— Emerald’s Breakfast on the Go! nut and granola mixes (or better yet make up your own mixture in advance and package into individual serving sizes)
— Boiled eggs (cooked up in advance) and whole wheat crackers
— Natural peanut butter and whole wheat toast
— Breakfast sandwich on an English muffin with Canadian bacon, lean ham or turkey and Swiss cheese
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.