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Skipping Breakfast May Be Harming Your Heart

Update Date: Jul 22, 2013 04:28 PM EDT

Breakfast really is the most meal of the day, according to a new study that found that skipping the morning meal could increase the risk of heart disease.

New research published in the journal Circulation found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a higher risk of heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease.

After analyzing food frequency questionnaires, and tracking the health outcome of 26,902 men between the ages of 45 and 82 for 16 years, researchers found that men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who ate their morning meals.

Men who didn't eat breakfast were younger than those who did. Breakfast skippers were also more likely to smoke, work full time and be single.  They were also less physically active and drank more alcohol.

The study revealed that men who reported eating late at night were 55 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease.  However, researchers said this finding may not be a major public health concern because few men reported this behavior.

"Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time," lead researcher Leah E. Cahill, of Harvard School of Public Health  said in a news release.

"Our study group has spent decades studying the health effects of diet quality and composition, and now this new data also suggests overall dietary habits can be important to lower risk of coronary heart disease," added senior author Eric Rimm, an associate Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Researchers said that men who abstained from breakfast were not eating additional make-up meals later in the day. However, researchers noted that there was some overlap between men who skipped breakfast and those who ate late at night.

Even though 97 percent of participants in the current study were of white European descent, researchers stressed that the results should also apply to women and other ethnic groups.

"Don't skip breakfast," Cahill said. "Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks. Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. For example, adding nuts and chopped fruit to a bowl of whole grain cereal or steel-cut oatmeal in the morning is a great way to start the day."

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