Does skipping breakfast increase your heart disease risk?

Skipping BreakfastCC: Rachel Park at Unsplash

When it comes to skipping breakfast, it often feels as though medical advice isn’t clear. Recently, a study suggested that eating breakfast increases your obesity risk. According to new research, skipping breakfast also increases your risk of heart disease.

If you’re feeling confused, you’re probably not alone. The media is often awash with conflicting medical advice and it’s hard to decipher which reports are best to follow. For your peace of mind, it’s worth learning more about what the latest study reveals.

What did the study focus on?

The study in question was published in the Journal of American Cardiology. A survey was issued to 6,000 people and they were asked about skipping breakfast. Of those people, 5.1% never ate their morning meal.

The researchers continued to follow the study’s participants over a 17 to 23-year period. During this time, there were 2,318 deaths. Of those, 619 died from cardiovascular disease. After looking at the data, the research team noticed that these deaths were higher among those who were in the habit of skipping breakfast. They excluded other potential causes, such as lifestyle factors, obesity, and diabetes status.

On the face of things, it looks as though skipping breakfast means you’re more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. However, a closer look at what the study doesn’t analyze may provide reassurance.

What could have caused the apparent link?

In the science world, it’s always appropriate to remember that correlation doesn’t mean causation. Sometimes it does, but it’s foolish to assume that correlation means there’s a link.

Skipping breakfast is often a sign of poor lifestyle choices. Although some people may do it consciously as part of a fitness regime, many are living hectic lifestyles. Those who skip breakfast may also have a lower income, they may eat poorly to compensate for their morning calorie loss, and they may engage with other poor lifestyle choices.

It’s important to recognize that choosing not to eat breakfast isn’t always a bad thing. However, whether it’s a bad lifestyle choice depends on your rationale for doing it. For example, if you skip breakfast so that you can engage in cardio and then eat after, you’re pretty healthy overall. But if you skip it because you sleep in late and you’re rushing to work, your choice isn’t controlled or healthy.

What are the effects of skipping breakfast?

An overwhelming body of evidence suggests that skipping breakfast is linked to eating food of low nutritional value later in the day. This is because you’re less likely to make controlled eating decisions when hungry, resulting in bingeing on junk.

Some studies also suggest that not eating breakfast is associated with adolescent obesity. Another study reveals that those who skip their morning meal are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and have a high BMI.

A lot of evidence suggests that not eating breakfast increases your chances of being obese. The link between obesity and cardiovascular disease is clear, which may be why the most recent study produced the results that it did. However, the evidence also suggests that this habit is connected to other lifestyle factors that increase your cardiovascular disease risk. Most notably, smoking and low socioeconomic status.

If you’re aware that not eating breakfast means you’re more likely to binge, start making time for it. However, if you’re a breakfast avoider because it’s a part of your health routine, don’t assume that this evidence means you’re on a path to heart disease.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.