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Steven Ranelli, 6, enjoys
a waffle breakfast in the Childrens cafeteria
did you eat for breakfast today? It turns out the answer to that
question may be more important than we knew, according to a study
by Mark Pereira, PhD, research associate
in Endocrinology, and
David Ludwig, MD, director of the Optimal
Weight for Life clinic. They found that people who eat breakfast
are significantly less likely to be obese and diabetic than those
Pereira and Ludwig reported their findings at an American
Heart Association conference on cardiovascular disease in March.
They found that obesity and insulin resistance syndrome
rates were 35 to 50 percent lower among people who ate breakfast
every day compared to those who frequently skipped it.
Our results suggest that breakfast may really
be the most important meal of the day, says Pereira, lead
author of the study. It appears that it may play an important
role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular
Pereira says eating breakfast might have beneficial
effects on appetite, insulin resistance and energy metabolism.
Just the habit of filling your belly in the morning
might help people control their hunger throughout the day so they
might be less likely to overeat, he says. Or, there
might be a hormonal basis for some of the effects because the hormone
insulin controls blood sugar, and blood sugar level is related to
how hungry or energetic a person feels.
Insulin resistance syndrome is a metabolic disorder
characterized by the combination of several factors such as obesity,
high abdominal body fat, high blood pressure, and high fasting levels
of blood sugar or the hormone insulin, which helps the body store
glucose properly. The syndrome also often includes problems in blood
fat metabolism such as high levels of triglycerides and low levels
of high-density lipoprotein (HDL the good cholesterol).
Although people with insulin resistance syndrome may not yet have
diabetes, their bodies do not use glucose efficiently, and those
with the condition are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes
and heart disease.
The risk reduction for obesity and insulin resistance
was consistent for white men and women and for black men, but not
for black women, a difference the researchers are continuing to
study, says Pereira.
Overall, about 47 percent of whites and 22 percent of
blacks reported daily breakfast consumption. Dietary patterns
are known to differ widely, probably due to cultural differences,
by race and ethnicity and even between men and women, he says.
The subjects included 1,198 black and 1,633 white participants whose
breakfast habits and risk factors for heart disease were assessed
over an eight-year period (1992-2000). Participants were age 25
to 37 in 1992.
The study results accounted for risk factors such as
smoking, low physical activity, alcohol use and demographic factors.
This large, prospective study of young adults from two different
racial groups makes a unique contribution to the literature, says
Pereira, but its limited because researchers cant determine
cause and effect from a self-reporting study.
Now that the researchers have clear evidence that breakfast is important,
he says, We have started looking at what people are eating
when they eat breakfast. We need to do more research. -CM
Whats your perfect breakfast? Tell us at
Heard in the halls: What's your
briefcase breakfasts (MSNBC)
set, breakfast! (KidsHealth.org)
Weight for Life clinic