July 22, 2013 — A large 16-year study reported in Circulation finds men who reported that they skipped breakfast had higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease (CHD). Meal timing, whether it’s missing a meal in the morning or eating a meal very late at night, may cause adverse metabolic effects that lead to CHD. Even after accounting for modest differences in lifestyle factors, the association persisted.
Researchers analyzed food frequency questionnaire data and tracked health outcomes for 16 years (1992-2008) on 26,902 male health professionals ages 45-82. They found:
- Men who reported they skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from CHD than those who reported they didn’t.
- The men who reported not eating breakfast were younger and were more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and drank more alcohol.
- Men who reported eating late at night (eating after going to bed) had a 55% higher CHD risk than those who didn’t. But researchers were less convinced this was a major public health concern, because few men in the study reported this behavior. During the study, 1,572 of the men had first-time cardiac events. The study collected comprehensive questionnaire data from the participants and accounted for many important factors such as TV watching, physical activity, sleep, diet quality, alcohol intake, medical history, BMI, and social factors like whether or not the men worked full-time, were married, saw their doctor regularly for physical exams, or smoked currently or in the past. While the current study group was composed of men who were of 97% white European descent, the results should also apply to women and other ethnic groups, but this should be tested in additional studies, researchers said.