Skipping breakfast doubles the risk of atherosclerosis, according to a study from the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III. The report not only highlights the importance of eating breakfast for cardiovascular health, but also implies there is a link between skipping breakfast and unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits.
The researchers set out to characterize the prevalence and progression of undiscovered atherosclerotic lesions. For their study, more than 4,000 middle-aged office workers were monitored with the latest imaging technologies over a time period of six years.
They evaluated the connection between 3 different breakfast patterns and the presence of atherosclerotic plaques in asymptomatic individuals. 20 percent of the individuals participating in the study regularly ate a high-energy breakfast, 70 percent ate a low-energy breakfast, and 3 percent either skipped breakfast or ate very little.
Individuals in this last category either spent less than 5 minutes on breakfast, consumed only coffee or fruit juice, or skipped breakfast entirely. The research team found that this group had unhealthy eating habits and a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors.
The study revealed that a breakfast containing less than 5 percent of the recommended daily calorie intake leads to twice the number of atherosclerotic lesions. This increased risk is independent of other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity.
The results of the study suggest that skipping breakfast is an indicator of more generally unhealthy lifestyle habits, associated with a higher prevalence of generalized atherosclerosis.
Study co-author Dr. José Luis Peñalvo pointed out that this is the first study to directly link breakfast patterns and the presence of atherosclerotic lesions.
Dr. Antonio Fernández-Ortiz is the scientific coordinator of the study.
“We need earlier and more precise risk markers for the early phases of atherosclerosis that will allow us to improve strategies to prevent myocardial infarction, stroke, and sudden death. These latest results make a definite contribution to achieving this goal,” said Dr. Fernández-Ortiz.