People who skip breakfast or eat very little first thing could be doubling their risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK. It is often associated with atherosclerosis, a build-up of fat inside the arteries.
New research found people whose breakfast contained less than 5% of the recommended daily calorie intake (100 calories for a daily intake of 2,000) had twice the number of atherosclerotic plaques as those who ate a high-energy breakfast.
The report, published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology (JACC), confirms the importance of eating breakfast for heart health and researchers said the findings could have important implications for public health.
Researchers analysed 4,000 middle-aged office workers and monitored the prevalence and progression of atherosclerotic plaques - fatty deposits in the walls of arteries that first appear at a young age, but in these early phases do not produce any symptoms.
Often, most people with atherosclerosis don’t know they have it until they get symptoms like angina or have a heart attack or stroke.
Out of the 4,000 participants, 20% regularly ate a high-energy breakfast, providing more than 20% of the recommended calorie intake. The largest proportion, 70%, ate a low-energy breakfast (between 5% and 20% of daily calorie intake). Meanwhile 3% either skipped breakfast or ate very little.
Individuals in this last category spent less than five minutes on breakfast, consuming only coffee or fruit juice, or skipped breakfast entirely.
Ultrasound technology discovered that people who skipped breakfast had 1.5 times more atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries than those who had an energy-rich breakfast every day.
What’s more, in some areas of the heart the number of plaques were 2.5 times higher in participants who skipped breakfast or ate very little.
Irina Uzhova, lead author of the study and researcher from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC), said people who skipped breakfast were also more likely to have unhealthy lifestyle habits.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), you can reduce your risk of atherosclerosis by:
:: Not smoking
:: Reducing blood pressure
:: Reducing cholesterol levels
Tracy Parker, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), told HuffPost UK: “Coronary heart disease is one of the UK’s biggest killers, and extensive research has already shown that skipping breakfast may increase your risk of this devastating condition. This study is yet another reminder that it’s not only what we eat, but when we eat it that affects our risk.”
She added: “Worryingly as many as one in five adults in the UK don’t eat breakfast every day. Studies like this should serve as good food for thought for those wanting to skip breakfast, and inspire us all to eat a healthy meal to kick-start our day and maintain a healthy heart.”
CNIC researchers said a “high-energy” breakfast could consist of a cup of coffee, milk or yogurt, fruit, and wholemeal bread with tomato and olive oil.