Breakfast beneficial for the heart

March 2, 2005 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Breakfast beneficial for the heart

A recent study suggests that skipping breakfast, often thought of as the most important meal of the day, may be a bad move for the heart, and possibly the waistline.

UK researchers found that when healthy, lean women skipped their morning meal, it raised their cholesterol levels and diminished their bodies' sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

On top of that, the women tended to eat more calories on breakfast-free days - suggesting that over the long haul, skipping breakfast could spur weight gain.  Some past studies have suggested that people who eat breakfast, particularly whole-grain cereals, have lower cholesterol and insulin levels. Along with past evidence these new findings suggest that making time for breakfast is likely to have long-term health benefits.

Whether one of those benefits is a smaller waistline is unclear. Some research has found an association between eating breakfast -- again, whole-grain cereals in particular -- and lower body weight, but other studies have found no such relationship.

To study the short-term metabolic effects of having and forgoing breakfast, researchers had 10 young, normal-weight women spend two weeks on each of two diet plans. Under one plan, the women had bran flakes with low-fat milk for breakfast, then had two meals and two snacks throughout the rest of the day. Under the other, they skipped breakfast, but had the cereal around noon; as in the breakfast plan, they had two additional meals and two snacks during the rest of the day. Under each plan, the women were allowed to indulge in a mid-morning cookie.

At the end of each two-week period, the researchers measured the women's metabolic responses to a test milkshake, using blood samples drawn before and after they had the drink. After the breakfast-free period, the women's cholesterol levels -- including the "bad" cholesterol, LDL -- were generally higher, and they showed poorer insulin sensitivity after having the test drink.

Besides the effects on cholesterol and insulin, skipping breakfast also seemed to make study participants eat more, as the women reported higher calorie intakes on breakfast-free days. They showed no changes in body weight, but according to researchers it is not surprising given the short study period. Researchers note that long-term studies are needed to investigate the full impact of breakfast consumption on body weight.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.