WASHINGTON — Many nutrition experts agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and now a new study finds that skipping it can actually lead to atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. The condition involves a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can be prevented by starting your day off with a healthy meal.
The benefits of getting vitamins, minerals, and fiber from fresh fruit, rich whole grains, and other features of what nutritional experts call a full and balanced breakfast have already been well-documented, but few studies have focused on hardened and narrowed arteries.
Researchers in Madrid examined 4,052 male and female adults ages 40 to 54 with no signs of cardiovascular or kidney disease. They used a computerized questionnaire to learn about their diets. Their breakfast patterns were based on the percentage of their total daily energy that came from breakfast.
The authors found that about 3 percent usually skipped breakfast altogether, while 69 percent were low-energy breakfast consumers (between 5- and 20 percent of their daily energy was consumed at breakfast), while about 28 percent were regular breakfast consumers.
Atherosclerosis was observed more in those who skipped breakfast and was present in the low-energy breakfast consumers.
“People who regularly skip breakfast likely have an overall unhealthy lifestyle,” says study author Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai Heart and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, in a press release. “This study provides evidence that this is one bad habit people can proactively change to reduce their risk for heart disease.”
The researchers also found that those who skipped breakfast had the greatest waist circumference, the highest Body Mass Index, and other indications of heart problems.
“Aside from the direct association with cardiovascular risk factors, skipping breakfast might serve as a marker for a general unhealthy diet or lifestyle which in turn is associated with the development and progression of atherosclerosis,” adds Jose L. Peñalvo, an assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, and the senior author of the study. “Our findings are important for health professionals and might be used as a simple message for lifestyle-based interventions and public health strategies, as well as informing dietary recommendations and guidelines.”
The full study was published Oct. 10, 2017 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.