Breakfast, Diabetes and Weight Gain. Is there a link?

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You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—and new science reveals that it can actually be lifesaving, particularly for men.

Men who regularly skip breakfast are at 27 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or fatal coronary disease, compared to those who eat a morning meal daily, according to a new study of male health professionals published in Circulation. The researchers tracked 26,902 initially healthy men, ages 45 to 82, over a 16-year period.

“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,” said Leah E. Cahill, Ph.D., study lead author and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in a statement.

Female Breakfast Skippers Also at Risk

A new, very large study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who skipped breakfast even once a week were 20 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate a meal every morning.

The study looked at data from more than 45,000 women who were initially free of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, and assessed their eating patterns over a six-year period. Those who chose to forego breakfast but ate frequently (four or more times a day) had a greater risk of developing diabetes, while a lower body mass index (BMI) seemed to mitigate some of the danger associated with irregular breakfast consumption. Translation: skipping breakfast isn’t a smart idea for anyone, but seems to be even more harmful for those who are overweight.

Link to Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

Another recent large scale study, which also used data from the over 29,000 participants in the male health professionals study, reveals a similar effect on men. Researchers noted that men who skipped breakfast had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions, hypothesizing that breakfast may play a role in stabilizing blood sugar levels throughout the day.

In fact, a new but much smaller study showed that eating breakfast reduces overall diabetes risk for overweight women. Insulin levels were higher after missing breakfast, and researchers believe that missing that meal may lead to insulin resistance, the root cause of type 2 diabetes.

Skipping Breakfast Also Linked to Mood, Memory, and Metabolic Syndrome

The risk of diabetes isn’t the only thing that’s changed based on whether or not someone eats breakfast. Forgoing the most important meal of the day can have negative effects on your mood, memory and energy levels, at least until you get a bite to eat during lunchtime. And the bad habit of skipping breakfast is also linked to weight gain, particularly around the midsection, as well as high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.

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