Middle-aged adults who routinely skip BREAKFAST are more likely to have clogged heart arteries than those who enjoy a big morning meal, a new study finds. The findings are the latest to link breakfast to better heart health.
They suggest that people who eat breakfast — are less likely to harbor plaques in their arteries.
Plaques are deposits of fat, calcium and other substances that can build up in arteries, causing them to harden and narrow — a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks strokes and other complications.
The new study does not prove that skipping breakfast directly harms people’s arteries.
“It’s not that you skip breakfast, you get plaques,” said senior researcher Jose Penalvo, of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.
But, he said, there are several reasons that forgoing the morning meal could contribute to the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque disease of the artery).
For many people, skipping breakfast is part of a “cluster” of bad habits, said Penalvo. These people tend to eat out a lot and opt for nutritionally questionable convenience foods, for instance. On top of that, Penalvo said, skipping breakfast may have negative effects on appetite-regulating hormones, blood sugar, and insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar).
Prior studies have shown that breakfast fans are less likely to be obese or have diabetes or heart disease.
Nearly 75 percent of breakfast-skippers showed such plaque buildup.
That compared with 57 percent of people who ate a big breakfast, and 64 percent of those who favored a light one.
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Kim Larson is a registered dietitian and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She said the findings are important, in part, because many adults — around 30 percent — routinely skip breakfast.
And some people, she noted, purposely cut out breakfast when they’re trying to lose weight. That’s a bad idea, Larson explained, because of the effects on appetite and eating habits the rest of the day.
“People who skip breakfast generally make up for it later in the day,” said Larson, who wasn’t involved in the study. In the end, she said, they typically down more calories over the course of the day, versus people who eat breakfast.
She acknowledged that time is an obstacle. Many people are rushed in the morning and end up eating a muffin in the car.
But breakfast does not need to be extravagant to be healthy, Larson said. Some of her suggestions: oatmeal with nuts and fruit; whole-grain toast with nut butter; granola mixed with yogurt and fruit; and apple slices with peanut butter.
Penalvo encouraged people to look at it this way: Eating a healthy breakfast is actually an enjoyable way to potentially curb your heart disease risk. Of course, breakfast is not a stand-alone solution.
Penalvo said it should be part of a generally healthy diet and other good habits such as regular exercise.
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The findings were published Oct. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.