Many people view breakfast as a bore; while some think it’s a mark of endurance to forgo the first meal of the day. It’s not unusual to hear such people inform those who care to listen that they’ve not eaten anything all day.
Bad as it is, when breakfast skippers finally decide to eat their first meal, the tendency is for them to overreach themselves by combining two meals, thus eating more than necessary at one sitting. Indeed, experts say one in four people skip breakfast during the week; while at least one in six adults don’t even bother to eat breakfast.
Yet, if you are fond of skipping breakfasts, researchers have bad news for you, especially if you are male.
A team of American researchers submit that “men who skip breakfast may face a higher risk of heart attack or deadly heart disease.”
In a study of nearly 27,000 men, the scientists discovered that those who failed to eat in the morning had a 27 per cent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who did. The subjects, ranging in age from 45 to 82, took part in a survey about food that tracked health outcomes from 1992 to 2008.
The researchers note that those who skipped breakfast tended to be young and were “more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and drank more alcohol.”
Lead study author and a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Leah Cahill, contends that, “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.”
According to the researchers, the men who said they ate breakfast also appeared to eat one more time per day than those who did not, suggesting that those who skipped breakfast did not make up for the lack of food later.
Another researcher with the MRC Clinical Science Centre at Imperial College, London, Dr. Tony Goldstone, found that skipping breakfast not only leads to larger meals later in the day, but it also contributes to cravings and a greater willingness to eat unhealthy food.
Goldstone enthuses that by skipping breakfast, you become vulnerable to being more tempted to eat unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Eating a good breakfast, he counsels, will save you from craving the forbidden.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, support this. They note that generally, hunger sets in long before it’s time for lunch. However, because the time may not be convenient to eat properly, many people who have not eaten breakfast take to snacking on fatty and sugary foods, which are likely to contribute to weight gain.
Clinical Biochemist and Products Manager (Diagnostics), New Heights Pharma, Mr. Olayinka Ebenezer, explains that eating breakfast may not only prevent possible heart attack, but it also has many advantages for men, women and children.
A nutritionist, Dr. Wande Brown, notes that when you take nothing for breakfast, you have the tendency to underperform on short-term memory tests, compared to those who have had their first meal.
Ebenezer explains that our brains need fuel to work properly, but it is good food that works like fuel in the human body. Thus, when you eat good meal in the morning, it gets you ready for the day. He notes, “The longer you go without eating, the more your body starts to slow and wind down. As time goes on, your thoughts, speech and reaction time begin to sputter until it comes to a standstill.”
For growing children, paediatricians say kids and teenagers that eat breakfast have more energy, do better in school, and eat healthier throughout the day. “Without breakfast, people can get irritable, restless, and tired,” family doctor, Tolani George, counsels.
Moreover, the Johns Hopkins scientists note that, among children of school age, breakfast provides the energy and nutrients that lead to increased concentration in the classroom. They fear that people who skip breakfast are unlikely to make up their daily requirement for some vitamins and minerals, which a simple breakfast would have provided.
All the experts agree that breakfast provides energy for necessary activities during the morning and therefore helps to prevent mid-morning slump, which the absence of a breakfast would have caused.
In terms of weight control, nutritionists say contrary to what dieters might think, skipping breakfast will counter all their efforts at maintaining a healthy weight, and lead to the exact opposite of what they are aiming at.
Indeed, experts argue that breakfast keeps the metabolism running higher because skipping meals causes the body to kick into ‘starvation’ mode. Consequently, scientists say, you are more likely to overcompensate for the loss of calories at breakfast by eating more high-fat foods later in the day.
A study that focused on people ages 12 and up, presented at the Experimental Biology Conference in Orlando, Florida, found that what you eat for breakfast may play a more significant role in weight maintenance than your total calorie intake.
The lead researcher/Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Gladys Block, advises that high-fibre, low fat breakfasts promote maintenance of healthy body weight and therefore should be preferred.
The scientists are unanimous in their conclusion: “Don’t skip breakfast, because eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attack.”