There is a significant link between skipping breakfast and increased cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers looked at 6,550 US adults, ages 40 to 75. They compared the incidence of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality among participants who never ate breakfast versus those who ate it on a regular basis. The study also assessed whether the effects of meal frequency were independent of other factors. Compared to those who ate breakfast, skippers had about a 60% increase in all-cause mortality, and about a 75% increase in cardiovascular mortality.
In the study, participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: eat breakfast or skip it. All participants were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study. However, the authors found a significant association between skipping breakfast and all-cause mortality in adults over 70 years of age. This was not the case for all participants, but it was significant enough to be studied.
Compared with the participants who ate breakfast, skippers were more likely to be overweight, smokers, heavy drinkers, and physically inactive. Also, those who skipped breakfast were more likely to have low levels of total energy intake and diet quality. Additionally, skipping breakfast was associated with higher rates of high cholesterol and hypertension.
After the researchers adjusted for age, diet, race, and other confounding factors, they found that the risk of cardiovascular mortality was 1.64-fold greater in those who stayed away from breakfast. This was a relatively small effect, and it is possible that the correlation may not be causation. Regardless, it is an important finding, especially considering the growing number of people who die from heart-related ailments.
The study is the first to examine the effect of dietary patterns on the risk of CVD. The data were from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large-scale study of adults in the United States. It surveyed adults over 40 from 1988 to 1994. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to indicate how often they ate breakfast. Of those who answered, 59% ate breakfast regularly, while 10% never ate it. Among those who ate breakfast regularly, 25% ate it on some days and 59% on all days.
The study is also the first to examine the effects of meal frequency on the risk of cardiovascular mortality. Participants who ate two meals that were less than four hours apart had a significantly higher all-cause mortality risk, whereas those who ate three or more breakfasts a day had a lower all-cause mortality risk.
In addition to the statistical techniques used to estimate death rates, the researchers did a number of other analyses. They looked at the timing of meals, the types of foods consumed, and the time between meals. Although the results suggest a positive relationship between meal frequency and all-cause mortality, the associations did not hold for women or men, and the results did not extend beyond the 40-to-75 age range.
Overall, the findings of the study are consistent with previous reports that eating a heart-healthy breakfast is a good way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the authors recommend further research to determine if there are gender differences in the association between breakfast and cardiovascular disease.