- Skipping breakfast or eating very little at the start of the day doubles the risk of atherosclerosis.
- An intake of less than 100 calories for a daily intake of 2000 calories has twice the number of atherosclerotic lesions as those who eat a high-energy breakfast.
- This increased risk, is independent of classical risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity.
Skipping breakfast or eating very little at the start of the day doubles the risk of atherosclerosis.
The report published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology (JACC).shows that people whose breakfast contains less than 5% of the recommended daily calorie intake (100 calories for a daily intake of 2000) have on average twice the number of atherosclerotic lesions as those who eat a high-energy breakfast.
This increased risk, is independent of classical risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity. The report not only confirms the importance of eating breakfast for cardiovascular health, but also suggests that skipping breakfast could indicate more generally unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits.
Subclinical Atherosclerosis - How Do we Get It?
The PESA-CNIC-Santander study with more than 4000 middle-aged office workers was carried out the aim of characterizing the prevalence and progression of latent, 'subclinical' atherosclerotic lesions.
The imaging analysis determined the presence of plaques in distinct vascular territories: the carotid and femoral arteries, the aorta, and the coronary arteries.
These imaging findings are scrutinized for associations with molecular markers and environmental factors, including dietary habits, physical activity, biorhythms, psychosocial characteristics, and exposure to environmental pollutants.
Study author Dr. José Luis Peñalvo explained that this is the first study to provide direct evidence for an association between different breakfast patterns and the presence of atherosclerotic lesions detected by noninvasive vascular ultrasound imaging.
The results suggest that skipping breakfast is an indicator of more generally unhealthy lifestyle habits, associated with a higher prevalence of generalized atherosclerosis.
Breakfast Intake Linked To Atherosclerosis
The study was done to find the association between different breakfast patterns and cardiovascular risk factors. To be more specific, the study was done to determine if skipping breakfast was linked to the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis in a population with no history of cardiovascular disease.
In the study population, 20% of participants regularly ate a high-energy breakfast, providing >20% of the recommended calorie intake. The largest proportion, 70%, ate a low-energy breakfast (between 5% and 20% of daily calorie intake), and 3% either skipped breakfast or ate very little (<5% of daily calorie intake).
Breakfast Skippers At Highest Risk of Atherosclerosis - Individuals who either skipped breakfast or ate very little spent less than 5 minutes on breakfast, consuming only coffee or fruit juice, or skipped breakfast entirely. The CNIC research team also found that this group tended to have more generally unhealthy eating habits and a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors.
Using ultrasound technology, the research team observed 1.5 times more atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries of breakfast skippers than in the vessels of study participants eating an energy-rich breakfast.
The number of plaques in some vascular regions was as much as 2.5 times higher in participants who skipped breakfast or ate very little.
Dr. José María Ordovás, also a study author and an expert in nutrigenomics, added that the analysis suggests that skipping breakfast could be a genuine risk marker in the initial stages of atherosclerotic disease, requiring further research into the underlying mechanism of action.
Early indicators of atherosclerosis can help reduce the progression of the plaque. Now, breakfast is found to play a crucial role in development of atherosclerotic lesions.
Dr. Antonio Fernández-Ortiz, PESA scientific coordinator said, "We need earlier and more precise risk markers for the early phases of atherosclerosis that will allow us to improve strategies to prevent myocardial infarction, stroke, and sudden death. These latest results make a definite contribution to achieving this goal."
- Dr. José Luis Peñalvo et al., Spanish research confirms the importance of breakfast in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2017).