Is skipping breakfast bad for your heart?

by Rebecca Israel, MS. Reviewed by Charles Li, MD

July 08, 2020

  • In a small sample, subjects who skipped breakfast had higher blood pressure than breakfast eaters.

  • In the same sample, subjects who skipped breakfast had lower cholesterol.

  • Skipping breakfast could be significantly associated with heart disease risk, but there is still a lot to learn.

breakfast and heart health title

As children, we are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Some say it's just a marketing tactic from milk and cereal companies. However, scientists have looked into this concept to determine the true benefits of breakfast. In this article, we explore some of their findings.

Breakfast and Heart Disease

Do breakfast skippers have elevated risk factors for heart disease than those who eat breakfast?

Source: Female breakfast skippers display a disrupted cortisol rhythm and elevated blood pressure

Researchers set out to measure the impact of breakfast on heart disease. They recruited 65 subjects who attended four lab visits over the study period. At these visits they reported breakfast eating habits, demographic information, a summary of relevant medical history, and provided blood samples for testing.

CDC's list of risk factors for heart disease

Source: Know Your Risk for Heart Disease

The study looked at risk factors for heart disease, not incidence. There are numerous risk factors for heart disease that are well established in medicine. These risk factors can be health conditions or behaviors.

LDL cholesterol was lower and systolic and diastolic blood pressures were higher in the skip per group (p = 0.043, p = 0.003, p = 0.009, respectively)

Study testing found that breakfast eaters had lower blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic. Systolic blood pressure is the top number and diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number. They work together to describe how much pressure the blood is putting on the arterial walls. In short, breakfast eaters had a healthier blood pressure than breakfast skippers.

Surprisingly, cholesterol was healthier in the breakfast skipping group. They had lower concentrations of LDL ,or low-density lipids. High concentrations of LDL can cause a plaque build up in the arteries.

Final thoughts on breakfast

It is difficult to explain why heart disease risk factors were split between the eating and skipping groups. It is important to note that this study had a small pool of subjects. With such a small pool, it is likely that some of these results are due to chance. The results may have turned out differently in a larger study sample. Though this study is not the gold standard, it successfully associated heart disease risk factors with skipping breakfast.

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