The Most Important Meal of the Day? Maybe Not

It has long been believed that breakfast serves as the most important meal of the day.  However, new research looking at the association between breakfast and cardiovascular diseasemay provide insight on the actual importance. A recent study looked at the association between eating breakfast and the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. They found that most individuals eat breakfast every day, with only a small percentage of individuals who never eat breakfast.

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An important finding from their research is that individuals who did not eat breakfast differed in substantial ways from those who ate breakfast every day. In other words, we cannot conclude that the health differences observed were due to not eating breakfast. While the researchers adjusted for the various lifestyle factors, their adjustment for income may not have been sufficient. Income can be a significant predictor for the ability to eat breakfast every day.

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On average, 6 out of 1000 individuals who ate breakfast every day died from cardiovascular events. On the other hand, 7 out of 1000 individuals who never ate breakfast died from cardiovascular events. While this may indicate a difference, 4 out of 1000 who either sometimes or rarely ate breakfast died from cardiovascular events. Given that there does not appear to be a dose-response relationship, or linear pattern, to the data we cannot conclude an effect from breakfast.

Overall, these results do not allow us to infer causality from eating or not eating breakfast. Additionally, we cannot conclude that not eating breakfast is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. While our mothers may have preached to us our whole lives that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the data does not provide us with significant results to support this claim. The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help provide healthy lifestyle consultations specific to nutrition, exercise, and health literacy. We can help provide support for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease through nutrition and physical activity interventions.

By Matt Lewandowski

Sources: How Important is Breakfast, Really? F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE – Medscape– April 24, 2019.; Rong, S., Snetselaar, L.G., Xu, G., et al. (2019).  Association of skipping breakfast with cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.  Journal of American College of Cardiology, 73, 2025-2032. Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash