Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, according to a 16-year study of a large group of middle-aged and older male American health professionals, their eating habits, and their risk of developing coronary heart disease.
The study found that men who reported skipping breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who ate breakfast. Men who regularly indulged in a “midnight snack” (getting up to eat after they had gone to bed) were found to have a 55% higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who didn’t.
However, no association was seen between eating frequency (number of meals per day) and the risk of coronary heart disease. This could suggest that it is the timing of meals rather than the frequency that has a bigger influence on heart health. But because of the design of this cohort study, a direct cause and effect relationship between breakfast and health cannot be proven.
While the researchers attempted to take certain lifestyle factors into account, it could be the case that people who take time to have a regular breakfast also tend to have healthier lifestyles. The group being studied was also extremely limited – professional men who were almost exclusively white. More research in women and other groups is needed for us to learn more about breakfast and heart health.