The timing of meals, whether it's missing a meal in the morning or eating very late at night, may cause adverse metabolic effects that lead to coronary heart disease, according to a 16-year study.
Even after accounting for modest differences in diet, physical activity, smoking and other lifestyle factors, the link between skipping breakfast or eating very late at night and coronary heart disease persisted.
27% higher risk
A study reported in the journal Circulation found that men who reported that they had skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported that they hadn’t. The men who reported not eating breakfast were younger than those who did, and were more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and drank more alcohol, the study found.
During the study, 1,572 of the men had first-time cardiac events.
“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time,” said Leah Cahill, study lead author and postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
“Our study group has spent decades studying the health effects of diet quality and composition, and this new data also suggests overall dietary habits can be important to lower risk of coronary heart disease,” she added.
Men who reported eating breakfast ate on average one more time per day than those who skipped breakfast, implying those who abstained from breakfast were not eating additional meals later in the day. Although there was some overlap between those who skipped breakfast and those who ate late at night, 76% of late-night eaters also ate breakfast.
While the current study group was composed of men who were of 97% white European descent, the results should apply to women and other ethnic groups, but this should be tested, researchers said.
“Don't skip breakfast,” Cahill said. “Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks.”