Your mom always said breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Turns out, she might have actually been on to something: Breakfast skippers are more likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries, potentially putting their hearts at risk, a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found.
After quizzing more than 4,000 adults who were free of heart disease on their breakfast habits, researchers broke them up into three groups: breakfast skippers, light breakfast eaters—taking in between 5 to 20% of their total calories during their morning meal—and heavy breakfast eaters, or those who took in 20% percent or more of their total daily calories during breakfast. Then, they performed ultrasound tests on the participants to gauge their arteries for early signs of atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque.
They discovered that people who skipped breakfast were more than twice as likely to show signs of plaque buildup in at least four of the six locations measured, including right and left sides in their neck, abdominal, and pelvic areas.
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And people who ate light breakfasts were also at risk, too—just not to as large an extent as those who skipped it completely. For instance, those who just ate a little in the morning were 21% more likely to show buildup in their neck arteries than those who ate hearty breakfasts. Breakfast skippers, on the other hand, were 76% more likely to have plaque buildup in their neck arteries.
That’s a problem: Your neck arteries deliver blood flow to your brain, so if plaque is clogging them up, that can lead to a blockage—potentially causing a stroke.
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So why might breakfast skippers be at greater risk? It might have to do with how they eat in general, the researchers believe. Nearly half of those who don’t eat breakfast fit the “social-business eating pattern”—similar to a business traveler, meaning they eat out frequently as part of their busy schedules. Breakfast skippers also tended to eat more processed meats later in the day, as well as more appetizers, sugary beverages, and alcohol. (Here are 8 breakfasts that will give you an instant gut.)
That can make the weight pile on, which is bad news for your arteries. The more excess fat you have, the greater your body’s production of inflammatory compounds tends to be, which can lead to plaque buildup, the researchers say.
Now, the researchers can’t say for sure whether skipping breakfast actually causes these changes. It might simply be that not eating breakfast makes you make poorer food choices later in the day—or, it could be that people who are already trying to lose weight to improve health factors may be tempted to skip breakfast to do so.
Bottom line: If you find yourself famished at lunch—or hitting the break room for donuts before the 10:00 AM meeting ends—you may want to bulk up your breakfast.
The article Science Has Bad News For People Who Skip Breakfastoriginally appeared on Men’s Health.