Is Skipping Breakfast Really Going To Kill You? Probably Not

A new scary study in which skipping breakfast is blamed for the risk of coronary calamities has gotten the health blogosphere all a-twitter, because we’ve long been lectured that the first meal of the day is the “most important,” and that forgoing it means that later in the day you will be wolfing down Whoppers.

The perils of skipping breakfast have always been debated, and for some of us, breakfast is just not a palatable idea. It’s not laziness, or not waking up early enough — the thought of putting anything from a power bar to a Moons Over My Hammy in your face hole before noon is puke-worthy. It’s not just you, if you feel that way.

So back to skipping breakfast — what to make of those new study stats? Is skipping breakfast a sure path to heart attack?

It turns out, it isn’t quite so clear cut. It’s also true that breakfast eaters probably are more overall diligent as a group, making an effort to plan their eating and maybe even incorporating workout time along with their daily three squares — probably a factor in the study’s findings.

The skipping breakfast study came out of the Harvard School of Public Health, where researchers examined data collected from a 16 year long period involving nearly 27,000 men. The study was published in the journal Circulation, and the dudes involved were between 45 and 82 years old when the study began.

Skipping breakfast was correlated in the research with a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or coronary heart disease death compared to breakfast eaters, but as Today points out, “only around 3,400 [of men in the study] were self-reported breakfast skippers,” adding that “study participants were only asked once – at the start of the study – if they were breakfast eaters.”

The site adds:

“While the men did report on their food frequency throughout the 16-year period, they were never asked again if they were breakfast eaters. This fact alone limits the impact of the findings, as the assumption is that eating habits remained the same for the entire 16-year study period. It is also quite likely that some fraction of both the breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers changed their eating behavior… Another key finding was that men who reported ‘eating late at night’ had a 55 percent higher coronary heart disease risk compared to those who didn’t, but the subgroup of participants was very small, just 313 men, or about 2 percent. This small number, acknowledged by the authors, is not convincing evidence alone of increased risk.”

So while skipping breakfast is not something you should go out of your way to do if you like breakfast, the act of not being a breakfast eater alone is not likely to kill you by itself.