CLEVELAND – Growing up, most of us heard the age-old advice to eat your breakfast, because it’s ‘the most important meal of the day.’
But is it true?
According to a recent study, people who skip breakfast may be putting their heart health at risk.
Cleveland Clinic’s Haitham Ahmed, M.D., did not take part in the research, but said it showed a link between unhealthy lifestyle habits and skipping breakfast.
“The people who were skipping breakfast were more likely to fall into what’s called a social business-eating pattern,” said Dr. Ahmed. “Those are people who are eating out at work, spending a lot of time eating out, eating larger meals, having alcohol, and eating more fast food.”
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Researchers looked at 4,052 people, none of which had heart disease, and examined their breakfast patterns.
Participants were divided into three groups – those who ate a big breakfast, a small breakfast and those who skipped breakfast entirely.
They found the people who were skipping breakfast were eating more throughout the day, including more fat. They were also drinking more alcohol and were more likely to smoke. Breakfast skippers also had more heart disease risk factors such as more weight, higher triglycerides, higher blood pressure and higher LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.
They were also more likely to have plaque build-up in the vessels outside of the heart.
Dr. Ahmed said while the study doesn’t show that skipping breakfast is the cause of these risk factors, it does show a connection between skipping breakfast and unhealthy eating patterns.
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He said the best way to manage heart disease risk factors is to plan ahead.
“It’s important to be intentional,” said Dr. Ahmed. “If you want to plan a certain outcome, if you want to lose weight, if you want to eat healthier, if you want to exercise; it’s important to plan your day – first thing in the morning, or the night before – so that you know exactly what you’re going to eat, as opposed to going about it randomly.”
Dr. Ahmed said that while the research didn’t focus on what the people were eating, those who ate more calories at breakfast had the best results.
He said more research is needed to learn more about how eating breakfast might impact overall heart health.
Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.