Skipping breakfast may be hardening your arteries. Here’s why

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They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it fuels your body. But what about your arteries and heart health?

A new study is warning that skipping breakfast may be increasing your risk of atherosclerosis, which is when your arteries harden and narrow as they build up with plaque.

Scientists out of Mount Sinai Heart in New York City say that those who forgo breakfast are more likely to end up with a higher waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood lipids and fasting glucose levels.

They’re even more likely to have an overall unhealthy lifestyle, from diet to alcohol consumption and even smoking.

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“Aside from the direct association with cardiovascular risk factors, skipping breakfast might serve as a marker for a generally unhealthy diet or lifestyle which in turn is associated with the development and progression of atherosclerosis,” Dr. Jose Penalvo, an assistant professor at Tufts University and senior author of the study, said.

“Our findings are important for health professionals and might be used as a simple message for lifestyle-based interventions and public health strategies, as well as informing dietary recommendations and guidelines,” Penalvo said.

Scientists pored over questionnaires about diet and lifestyle filled out by 4,052 adults without any history of heart problems.

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Turns out, only about three per cent of people said they skipped breakfast, while 69 per cent typically ate a light morning meal and 28 per cent loaded up on a hearty breakfast.

Those who skipped breakfast would turn to a coffee or orange juice instead. They were more likely to be men, smokers and dieters. Instead of eating breakfast, they’d load up on a large lunch.

It was breakfast-skippers who were most at risk of atherosclerosis, being overweight or even obese.

A limitation of the study is that some people may have been skipping breakfast because they were obese and were trying to lose weight or improve other risk factors for heart disease that could also contribute to atherosclerosis, the authors note.

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Canadian nutritionists say breakfast is the most important meal of the day – it provides your body with fuel and revs up your metabolism, setting the tone for your appetite and cravings for the rest of your day.

“Breakfast skippers are more likely to be overweight and miss out on important nutrients like calcium. Research shows that people who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories later in the day. Often these aren’t healthy calories … they’re from snack foods,” warned Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition.

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Your breakfast determines your blood sugar levels, fat burning and energy, according to Kirstin Schell, a personal trainer, nutritionist and project manager at Goodlife Fitness. She’s been with the company for 15 years.

“If one starts by consuming lots of sugar in the morning – for example, a bowl of sugary cereal with skim milk – then it will create an energy roller coaster effect with lots of highs and lows,” she explained.

When you’re hungry again after gorging on bacon and white toast, it’s your blood sugar levels spiking and crashing.

The full findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

With files from Reuters

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

Follow @Carmen_Chai

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