Time and time again we’re told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Is it true?
Studies have shown that people who regularly eat the morning meal are more likely to be a healthy weight than those who opt out; that eating breakfast later is linked with obesity in people with Type 2 diabetes; and when it comes to weight loss, women who eat their biggest meal in the morning have also been known to lose significantly more weight than women who make dinner their biggest meal of the day.
A new review of six studies involving more than 96,000 people — 5,000 of whom were already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes — adds to the growing research warning against skipping breakfast.
The meta-analysis, published last month by German researchers in the Journal of Nutrition, found that an individual’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increased by 6 percent after just one day of skipping breakfast per week. The risk increased with every additional day of skipped breakfast and peaked at a 55 percent higher risk for four to five days of skipping morning meals per week.
Researchers noted the association was only partly mediated by body mass index, suggesting individuals at varying weights may face an increased risk when skipping breakfast.
More than 30 million Americans (or 1 in 10) have diabetes. The majority (90 to 95 percent) have Type 2 diabetes, which is caused by insulin resistance in the body. Without insulin, the body's blood sugar levels can reach dangerously high levels and contribute to other serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meal timing and frequency have also been previously linked to blood glucose levels, insulin resistance and reduced insulin sensitivity, Columbia University professor Marie-Pierre St-Onge wrote in a statement for the American Heart Association last year.
“Studies have found people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure, and people who skip breakfast — about 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. adults — are more likely to be obese, have inadequate nutrition, show evidence of impaired glucose metabolism or be diagnosed with diabetes,” she wrote.
Another study last year found that opting out of breakfast contributes to metabolic impairment.
When individuals in the small study skipped breakfast, researchers noticed their bodies broke down more of their stored fat reserves, which may sound like a good thing for those aiming to lose weight. But the link actually suggests "an impairment in metabolic flexibility, the body's ability to switch between burning fat and carbohydrates—which 'may in the long term lead to low-grade inflammation and impaired glucose homeostasis,'" Time reported about the 2017 study.
Additionally, glucose concentrations and other markers of insulin resistance (high cholesterol and inflammation) were noticeably higher after lunch on days when individuals skipped breakfast.
This chronic inflammation is known to affect insulin sensitivity and can potentially increase one’s risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, folks with diabetes should reach for a well-balanced meal of fruits, whole grains, nuts, eggs, dairy and vegetables and avoid low fiber items or foods with added sugars and processed meats in the morning hours.
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