“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” is something you’ve probably heard at least once in your life, but just how true is this statement? Many people believe this to be false for different reasons. One of these reasons may be because Mr. Kellogg himself was the one who made up that statement. Most don’t know if there was any scientific evidence to scientifically support the statement, and may have been made up to sell more cereal. So, which is it? Is breakfast actually important, or was it all just a scam?
As it turns out, there is actually scientific evidence that suggests how important breakfast really is. It seems that breakfast is an important meal and skipping it for a long period of time could lead to significant adverse effects on the body. One of the consequences of regularly skipping breakfast is an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
ALICE (All-Literature Investigation of Cardiovascular Evidence) conducted eight different studies with a total of 284,484 participants. These studies found that the people who skipped breakfast the least still had a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease compared to those who ate breakfast regularly (Takagi et al. 2019). Furthermore, 6,550 adults (40-75 years old) participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. After some time, 2,318 out of these 6,550 people died with 619 of these deaths being due to cardiovascular disease. It was then found that participants who didn’t eat breakfast were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the participants who did eat breakfast (Rong et al. 2019).
Now it’s been established that breakfast is an important meal. Some might even go as far as to say that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but no scientific evidence clearly supports this. So why is breakfast so important for your heart? Is there any reason skipping breakfast can lead to cardiovascular diseases? Did Tony the Tiger curse skipping breakfast to make you buy his toasted cornflakes? There are a few possible explanations for the correlation between a lack of breakfast and increased cardiovascular disease.
The first possibility is that skipping breakfast will make you hungrier later on, which could lead to overeating during lunch or dinner. Skipping breakfast has been associated with potential consequences such as weight gain, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure due to increased activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and unfavorable changes in lipid levels (Takagi et al. 2019). These are all things that negatively impact your cardiovascular health, but could be avoided with some conscious efforts. If you know you skipped breakfast, you should try to avoid overeating later.
A second possible explanation is about what skipping breakfast says about a person’s lifestyle. Most healthy individuals are used to eating 3 meals per day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Skipping some of these meals can sometimes be a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle. These kinds of lifestyles will often lead someone to not take care of themself well. For example, not getting enough exercise, which is part of unhealthy lifestyle, will also negatively impact your cardiovascular health. Another possible reason could be linked to the socio-economic state of the people who participated in these studies. It may be that these people didn’t have the money to buy themselves breakfast. If they are in a position such as that one, then that means they’re probably very stressed out by their financial problems. This stress could also be a possibility for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
While eating breakfast has its benefits, it should be noted that overeating, during breakfast or any other meal, generally has negative consequences on our health over time. Having breakfast is good for your body and your heart, but not just any breakfast, a healthy and nutritious breakfast is recommended as one of the best ways to start your day.
Written by Mario Machado and edited by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD
1. Takagi H, Hari Y, Nakashima K, et al. Meta-Analysis of Relation of Skipping Breakfast With Heart Disease. Am. J. Cardiol. 2019;124(6):978–986.
2. Rong S, Snetselaar LG, Xu G, et al. Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 2019;73(16):2025–2032.