Skipping breakfast tied to higher risk of heart-related death, study finds

Holly Firfer gets healthy ideas from a registered dietitian on what a good breakfast should be.

Posted: Apr 23, 2019 3:10 PM
Updated: Apr 23, 2019 3:10 PM

Whether you eat breakfast might be linked with your risk of dying early from cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.

Skipping breakfast was significantly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular-related death, especially stroke-related death, in the study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on Monday.

After a person's age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, diet, lifestyle, body mass index and disease status were taken into account, the study found that those who never had breakfast had a 87% higher risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with people who had breakfast every day, said Dr. Wei Bao, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and senior author of the study.

"Breakfast is traditionally believed as the most or at least one of the most important meals of the day, but there are not much data available to say 'yes' or 'no' to this belief. Our paper is among the ones that provide evidence to support long-term benefits," Bao said.

"There are a few cardiovascular risk factors -- for example diabetes, hypertension and lipid disorders," he said. "Our findings are in line with and supported by previous studies that consistently showed that skipping breakfast is related to those strong risk factors for cardiovascular death."

Cardiovascular disease -- specifically heart disease and stroke -- is the leading cause of death in the world, accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths in 2016, according to the World Health Organization. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Skipping breakfast and cardiovascular death

The study involved data from 1988 to 1994 on 6,550 US adults, aged 40 to 75, who reported how often they ate breakfast in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The survey data generally let respondents define what meal would be considered breakfast.

Separate data was analyzed to determine the adults' health status through 2011. All told, 2,318 deaths occurred during an average follow-up period of 18.8 years, including 619 from cardiovascular disease.

The researchers took a close look at how often each person consumed breakfast and at mortality, specifically whether a death was related to cardiovascular health. The survey data generally let respondents define what meal would be considered breakfast.

Of those adults, 5.1% reported never consuming breakfast; 10.9% rarely ate breakfast; 25% had breakfast on some days; and 59% had breakfast every day.

Compared with those who consumed breakfast every day, adults who never did so had a higher risk of heart disease-related death and stroke-related death, according to the study.

Those associations were found to be significant and independent of socioeconomic status, body mass index and cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers noted.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first prospective analysis of skipping breakfast and risk of cardiovascular mortality," they wrote.

The study had some limitations, including that the data did not include information about what types of foods or drinks were consumed for breakfast and whether a person's breakfast consumption patterns changed between 1994 and when the followup mortality data was collected.

Most important, the study found only an association between skipping breakfast and risk of early death, not that skipping breakfast specifically causes any such outcomes. More research is needed to determine whether missing the meal actually could shorten life expectancy and why such an association exists.

The complexities of skipping breakfast

In general, the study noted that skipping breakfast has been associated with increased risk of obesity, elevated cholesterol or fats in the blood, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

A study published in the journal Circulation in 2013 found that breakfast was associated with a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease in men.

The new study "was fairly well done," said Krista Varady, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago, who was not involved in the research.

"However, the major issue is that the subjects who regularly skipped breakfast also had the most unhealthy lifestyle habits," she said. "Specifically, these people were former smokers, heavy drinkers, physically inactive, and also had poor diet quality and low family income."

All of those factors put people at a much higher risk for cardiovascular disease. "I realize that the study attempted to control for these confounders, but I think it's hard to tease apart breakfast skipping from their unhealthy lifestyle in general," Varady said.

Some people might skip breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting routine, but the breakfast skipping in the study and breakfast skipping during intermittent fasting are two different concepts and practices, said Valter Longo, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and director of the USC Longevity Institute, who was not involved in the new research

Intermittent fasting occurs when you cycle between long periods of not eating and then regular eating, helping restrict your calorie intake.

Some studies, several involving animals, suggest that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of obesity and its related diseases, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes and cancer.

To connect the study's findings to intermittent fasting, Longo warns "be careful."

"There are very good ways to do intermittent fasting and potentially very bad ways to do intermittent fasting," Longo said.

"But certainly, that's an interesting thing to keep in mind, that A: Maybe it's better to stick with 12 hours or 13 hours of fasting and that's it," he said. "Or B: If you need to do 16 hours, try to consider skipping dinner and not breakfast or lunch."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 587405

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson853851591
Mobile48932864
Madison37517533
Shelby27280257
Tuscaloosa27171465
Montgomery26172627
Baldwin25399329
Lee17224181
Calhoun15401334
Morgan15170291
Etowah14954370
Marshall13116235
Houston12077293
Elmore10915219
St. Clair10763252
Limestone10725158
Cullman10546205
Lauderdale10255254
DeKalb9508192
Talladega8949188
Walker7793288
Autauga7563114
Jackson7400117
Blount7362139
Colbert6703142
Coffee6365132
Dale5650117
Russell480243
Chilton4771117
Covington4749125
Franklin458181
Tallapoosa4519156
Escambia441383
Chambers3949125
Dallas3743163
Clarke371263
Marion3463107
Pike332579
Lawrence3263100
Winston298773
Bibb290465
Geneva283983
Marengo262467
Barbour250961
Pickens245562
Butler240872
Hale235578
Fayette227065
Henry213945
Monroe202141
Randolph201144
Cherokee199248
Washington185239
Macon170552
Crenshaw168358
Clay166259
Cleburne161345
Lamar151038
Lowndes145455
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh121332
Coosa118329
Perry110528
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 81°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
The heat wave that controlled our area over the past several days is now behind us. The forecast for the next week looks a bit cooler & less humid.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather