There’s a reason why your parents used to tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, when it comes to heart health, skipping breakfast has disastrous effects.
Researchers from the University of Iowa collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 6,550 adults between the ages of 40 to 75. The data they used spanned 1988 to 1994, with an average follow-up of 18 years. Among those observed, 59 percent ate breakfast every day, 25 percent ate breakfast some days, 11 percent rarely ate breakfast, and 5 percent never did. The researchers found that those who skipped breakfast altogether had an 87 percent greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who started their day off with a meal.
“Breakfast is traditionally believed as the most or at least one of the most important meals of the day, but there [is] not much data available to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this belief. Our paper is among the ones that provide evidence to support long-term benefits,” Dr. Wei Bao, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa and lead author of the study, told CNN.
In a press release, Bao noted that skipping breakfast was associated with elevated blood pressure and changes in appetite, causing a person to not feel full and overeat later in the day. This leads to multiple cardiovascular risk factors, according to Bao, including diabetes, hypertension, and lipid disorders. “Our findings are in line with and supported by previous studies that consistently showed that skipping breakfast is related to those strong risk factors for cardiovascular death,” he told CNN.
The University of Iowa study does have some limitations, most notably that it only establishes an association between skipping breakfast and death from cardiovascular disease, rather than proving that one causes the other. It also doesn’t specify what any of the participants actually ate for breakfast, which is significant, given that a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries or a vegetable omelet with a side of avocado is much more heart-healthy than fried chicken and waffles, for example. But, of course, you didn’t need a study to tell you that!