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Study shows link between skipping breakfast and atherosclerosis

Tuesday October 3rd, 2017

Eating a good breakfast may help to prevent atherosclerosis, Spanish researchers have reported.

The Progression and Early Detection of Atherosclerosis study (PESA), led by the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) in partnership with Banco Santander, says that skipping the first meal of the day – or eating very little – can double an individual’s risk of developing the serious condition.

Their findings, which were published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology last night, are the first to provide direct association between different breakfast patterns and atherosclerotic lesions.

The team says people whose breakfast contains less than 5% of the recommended daily calorie intake have on average twice the number of atherosclerotic lesions compared to individuals who eat a high-energy breakfast.

They were also more likely to have an unhealthy lifestyle, with poor diet, frequent alcohol consumption and smoking, and be hypertensive and overweight or obese.

The prospective cohort study monitored more than 4,000 middle-aged office workers over six years with the aim of characterising the prevalence and progression of latent, 'subclinical' atherosclerotic lesions.

Although the association between breakfast and cardiovascular health is well known, the latest PESA project evaluates the relationship between three distinct breakfast patterns and the presence of atherosclerotic plaques in asymptomatic individuals.

The results suggest that skipping breakfast is an indicator of more generally unhealthy lifestyle habits, associated with a higher prevalence of generalised atherosclerosis.

Among the participants, 20% regularly ate a high-energy breakfast, providing more than 20% of the recommended calorie intake, while 70% ate a low-energy breakfast of between 5% and 20% of daily calorie intake). Just 3% of participants skipped breakfast or ate less than 5% of their daily calorie intake.

Those in the last category consumed only coffee or fruit juice, or skipped breakfast altogether, and the CNIC team identified that this group also tended to have more generally unhealthy eating habits and a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors.

The research team used ultrasound technology to observe that those who skipped breakfast had between 1.5 times and 2.5 times more atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries than those who ate an energy-rich breakfast.

Study author Dr Valentin Fuster said: “People who regularly skip breakfast likely have an overall unhealthy lifestyle. This study provides evidence that this is one bad habit people can proactively change to reduce their risk for heart disease.”

Journal of American College of Cardiology 2 October 2017

Tags: Diet & Food | Europe | Heart Health

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