Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day: A new study found that skipping breakfast increases the risk of heart attack in men over age 45 by nearly one-third.
In a 16-year-long study, researchers followed 26,902 men, ages 45-82. They found that men who skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who ate breakfast. During the study, 1,572 of the men had first-time cardiac event, like a heart attack.
The findings were reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation on Tuesday, July 23.
Although men who skipped breakfast were also more likely to smoke, drink, be less physically active, and work full-time, scientists found that the link between skipping breakfast and coronary heart disease remained strong even after adjusting for several diet and lifestyle factors.
“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,” lead study author Leah E. Cahill from Harvard School of Public Health said in statement from the American Heart Association.
Men who ate late at night also had a a 55% higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who did not eat after bedtime.
Why does skipping breakfast and late-night eating lead to coronary heart disease? Researchers believe the link could be related to the timing of the meal and metabolic changes that result from not eating in the morning or eating after bedtime. Another possibility is that non-breakfast eaters are missing out on the nutrient-dense foods, like nuts, fruits, and whole-grain cereal, that are typically consumed in the morning, while late-night snackers are eating lots of high-calorie junk food.
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