Skipping breakfast and late-night snacking can raise risk for heart disease

Men who skip breakfast or indulge in late-night cravings might be more at risk for a heart attack and coronary heart disease, according to a new study published in the journal Circulation.

While studies have long pointed to the idea that breakfast is important for children, little research has been done on whether "the most important meal of the day" is really that critical for adults.

Eating habits and heart disease

Associate professor of medicine and public health at Harvard and senior author of the study, Dr. Eric Rimm, said his research is the first to draw a clear connection between eating habits and heart disease – which is still the leading cause of death in the United States.

Rimm and his colleagues surveyed 27,000 men between 1992 and 2008 and examined their eating habits every two years. The subjects had no history of heart disease or cancer at the beginning of the study.

Results showed that men who skipped breakfast were 27 percent more likely to suffer heart attack or cardiovascular-related death than men who ate breakfast. Similarly, late-night snacking was also linked to a 55 percent higher risk for heart disease.

"Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time," said lead author Dr. Leah Cahill, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health.

More to the story

The study was a follow-up project to the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), which represents health outcomes of people who work in the medical industry, like pharmacists, podiatrists, dentists, veterinarians and osteopaths.

Since medical professionals tend to be thought of as healthier than the general population, it is possible that any benefits from eating breakfast had more to do with overall healthier lifestyles, the researchers noted.

Another important piece of the puzzle is quality of nutrition, as picking up the wrong foods for breakfast is unlikely to yield health benefits, Cahill concluded.

"Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals," she said.

Source: Medical Daily

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