23 July 2013
The importance of a healthy breakfast has been highlighted by new research showing that skipping the morning meal could increase a person's risk of heart problems.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, US, set out to study the effect of skipping breakfast on people's heart health.
They analysed data obtained from food frequency questionnaires that were completed by 26,902 male health professionals between the ages of 45 and 82.
The men's health outcomes were then tracked for 16 years between 1992 and 2008, during which time there were 1,572 first-time cardiac events.
Findings published in the journal Circulation show that skipping breakfast was indeed associated with an increased risk of heart problems in middle-aged and older men.
For instance, men who said they regularly skipped breakfast were 27 per cent more likely to have a heart attack or to die from coronary heart disease than those who said they usually ate a morning meal.
The practice was found to be particularly common among younger men, smokers and full-time workers, as well as those who were unmarried, physically inactive and heavy drinkers.
Researchers observed that men who reported eating after bedtime also had a 55 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease, compared with those who did not eat late at night.
However, so few men reported doing this that the researchers said it was unlikely to be a major public health concern.
Senior study author Dr Eric Rimm said that the new data suggest diet quality and composition are not the only factors that affect heart health, as "overall dietary habits can be important to lower risk of coronary heart disease".
Commenting on the possible reasons for the link between skipping breakfast and heart problems, lead author Dr Leah Cahill said: "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."
According to Dr Cahill, the key take-home message from the study is not to skip breakfast.
She advised: "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."
Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, agreed that a healthy breakfast is important for overall health.
"In the morning rush it can be all too easy to skip breakfast, but this study suggests this could have a bigger impact on our health than we might think," she observed.
"What we do know is that a healthy and filling breakfast can make that mid-morning biscuit less tempting, as well as giving you another opportunity to widen the variety of foods in your diet.
"Wholegrain toast or cereals, like porridge with low-fat milk, are a good way to start the day. Try a sliced banana or dried fruit on top and you'll be on your way to five-a-day before you've even left the house."
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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