Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Wisdom Wednesday: Could Skipping Breakfast Feed Heart Disease?
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 – especially a hearty one – 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.
“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.
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 dubious 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. But the current study actually used ultrasound to screen middle-aged adults for “subclinical” atherosclerosis – early plaque buildup that is not causing any symptoms.
The study included more than 4,000 adults ages 40 to 54 from Spain. Three percent were chronic breakfast-skippers, while 27% regularly had a big breakfast. That meant they ate more than 20% of the daily calories at their morning meal. Most people – 70% - ate a relatively low-calorie diet.
Nearly 75% of breakfast-skippers showed plaque buildup. That compared with 57% of people who ate a big breakfast, and 64% of those who favored a light one.
Breakfast fans were healthier in many ways, the study found. They generally ate more fruits and vegetables, seafood and lean meat, for instance. They were also less likely to be obese or have high blood pressure, diabetes or unhealthy cholesterol levels. But even with all those factors weighed, breakfast-skipping, itself, was still tied to a higher risk of atherosclerosis.
The findings were published Oct. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
I routinely have my new patients complete a food journal for a full week. About 30% skip breakfast. They think it will help them lose weight, when in fact, it does just the opposite.
Cortisol, an adrenal hormone, typically drops to its lowest point around midnight then increases to peak upon arising in the morning. This ensures adequate blood sugar, stimulating the liver to release stored sugar (glycogen) as needed while we sleep.
Breakfast (breaking-the-fast) stimulates a drop in cortisol. Especially if the meal contains enough protein (about 15 grams). Skipping the first meal of the day allows high cortisol levels to persist. This alters our circadian rhythm resulting in a host of health issues. Recent studies indicate the hormonal changes associated with high cortisol contribute to insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.
The Bottom Line:
Don’t skip breakfast, make time to eat a healthy meal. Include about 4 ounces of protein, some healthy fats and complex carbs. You will feel better, have less hunger and possibly even lose some weight as the short term benefits. Long term, it will probably prolong your health and life.
Source: October 2, 2017 National Institutes of Health
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