Ensuring you get enough nutrition - and calories - at breakfast can promote long term health. [Photo: Bigstock]

Breakfast is the healthiest meal of the day

4 December, 2017

Natural Health News — Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, especially when it comes to normalising fat metabolism.

In a small study UK researchers asked 49 lean and obese adults to either eat breakfast before 11 am or fast until mid-day every day for six weeks. Participants in the breakfast group were asked to consume 350 calories within 2 hours of waking and at least 700 calories by 11.00am every day; whereas the fasting group consumed no energy until midday.

Before and after the study the researchers measured metabolism, body composition, appetite responses and markers of metabolic and cardiovascular health. They also measured participants’ fat for the activity of 44 different genes and key proteins, and studied the ability of the fat cells to take up glucose in response to insulin.

A boost to metabolism

What you need to know

» Two recent studies demonstrate the importance of a good breakfast each day

» One found that eating a hearty breakfast helped the body regulate fat metabolism with knock on benefits for heart disease and diabetes risk

» The other found that those who regularly skip breakfast or consume a low calorie breakfast are at higher risk of atherosclerosis.

What they reported in the Journal of Physiology was that regularly eating breakfast affects our body fat cells by decreasing the activity of genes involved in fat metabolism and increasing how much sugar they take up. The upshot is good news for lowering diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

The research team from the UK also found that fat in obese people responds less to insulin, which regulates blood sugar, than lean people do. Importantly, this decrease is proportional to the person’s total amount of body fat.

Javier Gonzalez, lead author of the study said, ‘by better understanding how fat responds to what and when we eat, we can more precisely target those mechanisms. We may be able to uncover new ways to prevent the negative consequences of having a large amount of body fat, even if we cannot get rid of it.’

‘Since participants ate high-carb breakfasts, we cannot necessarily extrapolate our findings to other types of breakfasts, particularly those with high protein content. Our future studies will also explore how breakfast interacts with other lifestyle factors such as exercise.’

Better for your heart

This isn’t the only good news about breakfast.

Eating a healthy breakfast has been shown to promote greater heart health, including healthier weight and cholesterol.

Last month a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which looked at the breakfast habits of more than 4000 men and women found that skipping breakfast is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to a build-up of plaque,

Food questionnaires were used to divide the volunteers in this study were divided into 3 groups:

  • Those who skipped breakfast – i.e. consuming less than 5% of their total energy intake in the morning in the form of coffee, juice or other non-alcoholic beverages);
  • Breakfast eaters – i.e. those consuming more than 20% of their total energy intake in the morning;
  • Low energy breakfast eaters – i.e. those consuming between 5-20% of their total energy intake in the morning.

According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, atherosclerosis was observed more frequency among participants who skipped breakfast and was also higher in participants who consumed low-energy breakfasts compared to breakfast eaters.

Additionally, cardiometabolic risk markers were more common in those who skipped breakfast and low-energy breakfast consumers compared to breakfast eaters. Participants who skipped breakfast had the greatest waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood lipids and fasting glucose levels.

“People who regularly skip breakfast likely have an overall unhealthy lifestyle,” said study author Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, MACC director of Mount Sinai Heart and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. “This study provides evidence that this is one bad habit people can proactively change to reduce their risk for heart disease.”