Skipping Breakfast Increases Risks for Heart Disease? Not Really…

So I was making my way around the internet (as I do on occasion), when I came across a discussion on skipping breakfast…and you know how much I like to jump into those!

In the comments it was the same old lines of “starvation mode”, “crashing metabolism”, “lose all your muscle” and the other usual mainstream fear based reactions that come with the thought of not eating all day (of course we know that not to be true). However one did stand out as new to me.

I saw someone mention “research has shown the skipping breakfast increases the risks for heart disease”. OK, this was something I had to look into myself. Although I like to call myself “2 Meal Mike” and promote breakfast as being “overrated”, I’m also like every other person out there and want to just be healthy and happy. So I’m open for discussion on anything even when it comes to eating breakfast.

So off I went to look up the relationship of skipping breakfast and heart disease, and these mainstream headlines are what I came across.

Skipping breakfast too often can put you at risk of heart disease (at the Daily Mail)

Skipping Breakfast Linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes (another mainstream health site)

Wow, that seems like a pretty serious accusation. It’s like the idea of “skipping breakfast” has already been left holding the smoking gun and found guilty. However I also realize that plenty of news nowadays seems to be more based on shocking accusations, even if the title isn’t really 100% true.

Continuing on with one of the articles it goes into:

If you think skipping breakfast isn’t a big deal—who has the time, right?—you might reconsider that after hearing about some new research. In the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Australian researchers examined whether breakfast skippers are setting themselves up for heart disease and diabetes.

So there was an actual study, but what did it really focus on? Well when you dig into the details, it paints a different picture.

Getting into the Details

The study first of all did not actually focus on rates of actual diagnosed heart disease, just some associated “risk factors”. It looked at the eating patterns of children and followed up with them as adults. Risk factors were things such as waist circumference, weight/bodyfat, fasting insulin and cholesterol numbers. What they really came to conclude was:

Turns out those who tended to skip breakfast as kids and adults had a larger waist circumference and significantly higher insulin, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels—all warning signs for heart disease and diabetes—than those who regularly ate breakfast as kids and adults.

But if you do continue to read down, here’s where the real facts are:

Scientists think one reason is they are more likely to snack on sugary foods and less likely to exercise while having a lower intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

and

Previous research has clearly shown other pitfalls of skipping breakfast: A meta-study of 47 individual studies found that people who skip breakfast are more likely to smoke or drink, more likely to follow fad diets, and less likely to exercise.

Poor Choices are Really to Blame

So here’s the cliff notes on what they are really trying to say. If you skip breakfast, it may be possible that you are also more likely to follow an “unhealthy” lifestyle, eat crappy foods, gain weight, smoke, drink and not exercise. Those can increase the variables known as risks of heart disease.

But the original title of  “skipping breakfast increases risks of heart disease” is actually not a 100% true statement. As the study did not properly prove that as the direct link. It’s just an observation made in a small group of people (and they even missed out on 2/3 of the people as adults) without even taking into consideration monitoring all their food choices and lifestyle factors.

The real message is that if you eat less quality of foods (more processed), gain weight, smoke and drink more all because you skip breakfast, then perhaps you need a new plan. If eating breakfast keeps you more focused on eating higher quality of foods (real foods), overall less calories, helps you to exercise and paying attention to your lifestyle, then by all means keep on eating it.

On the flip side I know that I haven’t eaten breakfast regularly in what seems like decades. However I also stay leaner, feel healthier, eat more real foods now than I did in the past (I ate way more junk when I was in “breakfast” mode), and enjoy being active and exercise . So using the same parameters of this study, my heart disease risks have not increased (decreased if anything) even while hardly ever having breakfast.

(In fact periods of skipping meals with intermittent fasting have shown to lower fasting insulin, inflammation and many other health markers)

While not eating a big or any breakfast may not be for everyone, skipping it is not seen to be a “direct” factor in increasing heart disease either. How you eat (do you binge or control your food intake) and your lifestyle (exercise, smoking, drinking) the rest of the day is where the real results happen.

For many of you this is probably nothing that new, but there are still people out there believing in ideas like this without really understanding all the details. Hopefully I’ve helped to clear this up, so people can understand all the facts and start choosing how they want to eat.

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