Men who regularly eat breakfast have a lower risk of heart attack or death from heart disease than do men who skip the first meal of the day.
The finding, reported in the journal Circulation, comes from 16 years of data from 26,902 healthy American men ages 45 to 82 enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers led by Dr. Eric B. Rimm, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, note that there hasn’t been formal evidence to back up the often-repeated adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
Now there is. After controlling for age, diet quality, smoking, marital status, employment status, family risk of heart disease, and exercise, Dr. Rimm’s team found that men who skip breakfast (no meals or snacks before lunch) were 27% more likely to have a nonfatal heart attack or to die of heart disease.
But skipping other meals doesn’t seem to hurt. There was no significant difference in heart risk between men who ate one or two times a day and those who ate six or more times each day.
The study also found evidence that men who ate or snacked late at night (after initially going to bed) had a 55% higher risk of heart attack or heart death. However, very few of the doctors, veterinarians, and other health professionals in the study ate this way, so it remains unclear whether this is a relevant health concern.