Men who skip breakfast are putting their heart health at risk.

If the important men in your life are not eating breakfast, this might help you to convince them they should.

Men who skip breakfast have a 27 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or developing heart disease than those who start the day with something in their stomach, according to BWH and Harvard School of Public Health research that was published in Circulation.

“Men who skip breakfast are more likely to gain weight, to develop diabetes, to have hypertension, and to have high cholesterol,” says BWH researcher Eric Rimm, senior author of the study.

For example, breakfast skippers are 15 percent more likely to gain a substantial amount of weight and 21 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, earlier studies have reported.

This study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, found that these men also indulged more heavily in other unhealthy lifestyle choices. They were more likely to smoke, engage in less exercise, and drink alcohol regularly. The researchers analyzed data culled from a 16-year study of nearly 27,000 male health professionals that tracked their eating habits and overall health from 1992 to 2008. During the study period, 1,572 of the men developed heart disease.

Dr. Rimm says there are several possible explanations why skipping breakfast can have such a drastic effect on heart health. “Men who skip breakfast do not make up for that skipped meal later in the day, which indicates that they tend to feast on higher-calorie meals when they do eat,” he says.

The type of food that a person consumes during breakfast also might be a factor. “Breakfast is typically a time when people tend to eat a healthy meal,” Dr.  Rimm says. “By skipping a meal that usually features fiber or fruit or yogurt, you’re missing out on an occasion where people can get healthy nutrients.”

Younger men tend to skip breakfast more frequently than older men, the researchers found, which leads to another possible explanation. “It may be in line with the fact that these are men who are rushing out to stressful jobs and not eating along the way,” Rimm says, noting that stress is bad for heart health and is associated with negative lifestyle choices such as drinking or smoking.

The study did not include women, but the researchers believe the same pattern likely occurs in women who skip breakfast.

Dr. Rimm says the study reinforces the age-old emphasis on breakfast as a key to good health.

“There is so much we know about reducing risk of heart disease, and some things like exercise or quitting smoking take quite a bit of effort,” he says. “But it is easy without a big financial or time commitment to have breakfast, even if it is a bowl of oatmeal or a bit of cereal before you start the day.”

- JCL

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