Experts say skipping breakfast occasionally can even raise your risk. Here’s some advice on what to eat.
It’s commonly said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and new research shows why it’s so important to eat healthy in the morning.
German researchers conducted a review of existing studies and concluded that skipping breakfast – even occasionally – is associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The review looked at data from more than 96,000 people, spanning 6 separate studies.
The researchers found that skipping breakfast once a week is associated with a 6 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The numbers rose from there, with skipping breakfast 4 or 5 times per week leading to an increased risk of 55 percent.
The research was published in The Journal of Nutrition.
A nutritionist interviewed by Healthline says the data isn’t particularly surprising, and offered some tips for people who find it difficult to start their day with a hearty meal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 90 to 95 percent of the 30 million people in the United States living with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
While type 1 diabetes is less common and generally diagnosed early in life, type 2 diabetes typically develops in people over the age of 45. Risk factors include being overweight and physically inactive, along with genetics.
Doctors typically recommend lifestyle changes to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. And there are strategies for managing the disease for people who’ve already been diagnosed.
How breakfast helps
Given the link between type 2 diabetes, blood sugar, and insulin, it isn’t surprising to dietitians that skipping breakfast could also lead to an increased risk.
“Some small studies suggest that skipping the morning meal can actually lead to more insulin resistance,” said Jenna Freeman Scudder, RD, a dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who focuses on helping people with diabetes. “Insulin resistance is a condition that requires more insulin to bring blood sugar into the normal range. And when it’s chronic, there’s a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”
Scudder said that omitting breakfast in the morning has also been associated with an increase in blood sugar following both lunch and dinner. This can put undue stress on the body as well as leading to poor dietary choices.
“Not breaking that fast after a night’s sleep can strain your body and its metabolism, and it can also lead to overeating,” she said. “It also makes unhealthy, high-calorie options more appealing.”
Who has the time?
A 2015 poll found that 53 percent of Americans skip breakfast at least once a week and 12 percent don’t eat breakfast at all.
While many poll participants reported not feeling hungry in the morning, another primary reason for skipping the meal is not having enough time.
That same study found that when many people do eat breakfast, they opt to do so on the go by grabbing a quick meal at a fast food restaurant or a coffee shop.
Scudder said it isn’t a good idea to start your day off with an unhealthy meal.
“Encouraging people to eat breakfast should include discussing what the popular American breakfast foods tend to be. Things like donuts, pastries, pancakes, and sweetened cereals are full of saturated fat and contain very little protein and fiber,” she said. “These aren’t the foods you want to eat in the morning.”
If convenience food is often unhealthy and a proper breakfast takes too long, what makes a quick and nutritious breakfast?
Scudder says oatmeal is a healthy choice because it contains a type of fiber that can help you feel full. It can also help reduce cholesterol.
This comes with a caveat, though.
“Avoid the flavored kinds of oatmeal that have extra sugar,” she said. “Plain oatmeal also comes in individual packets, so it’s just as simple to make.”
If plain oatmeal is too bland, Scudder recommends mixing in a little honey, fresh fruit, or nuts.
Another option is eggs, an old breakfast staple. If there isn’t enough time to cook them, hardboiled eggs are a good option because they can be made ahead of time and eaten throughout the week.
“Adding a slice of 100 percent whole-wheat toast, a whole-grain waffle, or plain Greek yogurt with a piece of fruit can make a well-balanced meal in the morning that doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare,” she said.
“Eating a breakfast of high fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein is best,” she said. “It can help you kick-start your day, give you energy, satisfy your appetite, and set the stage for healthy eating all day long.”
The bottom line
Researchers say skipping breakfast, even occasionally, can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Experts say this is because of the relationship between diabetes, insulin, and blood sugar levels.
Dietitians recommend that people eat a healthy, hearty breakfast that fills them up and prevents spikes in their blood sugar.
Good options for a quick breakfast include oatmeal and eggs.
This article was originally published on Healthline on 7th January 2019.