Skipping breakfast may increase your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, new health guidelines warn.
The statement, released by experts in the US, advises the public to always eat breakfast on the grounds that allocating more calories earlier in the day could reduce your risk of illness.
The announcement highlighted a link between eating breakfast and having lower heart disease risk factors, noting that people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to have high cholesterol and blood pressure.
They also said people who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese, have inadequate nutrition, show evidence of impaired glucose metabolism or be diagnosed with diabetes.
The statement, issued by the American Heart Association, has been backed by heart experts in the UK.
Scientists from Columbia University analysed previous data looking into how meal times impact health in order to create the latest statement.
The experts said meal timing “may affect health due to its impact on the body’s internal clock”.
“In animal studies, it appears that when animals receive food while in an inactive phase, such as when they are sleeping, their internal clocks are reset in a way that can alter nutrient metabolism, resulting in greater weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation,” co-author Marie-Pierre St-Onge commented.
“However, more research would need to be done in humans before that can be stated as a fact.”
As well as promoting breakfast, the statement stresses that it is still important to eat a healthy diet, including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish.
It also says the public should limit their consumption of red meat, salt and foods high in added sugars, but adds that when and how often a person eats these foods may impact heart health.
Meal timing and frequency have also been linked to risk factors for heart disease and stroke including obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, as well as reduced insulin sensitivity, the experts warned.
“We suggest eating mindfully, by paying attention to planning both what you eat and when you eat meals and snacks, to combat emotional eating,” St-Onge said.
“Many people find that emotions can trigger eating episodes when they are not hungry, which often leads to eating too many calories from foods that have low nutritional value.”
The statement advises the public to spend more time planning meals, including breakfast, to ensure we’re eating healthily despite our hectic lifestyles.
The advice has been welcomed by Victoria Taylor, heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation.
“In the UK our lifestyles have become more demanding and as a result our meal patterns have become more varied and irregular,” she said.
“Compared with 30 years ago, more meals are skipped or eaten on the go, and later in the day. This study shows that it’s not only what we eat but also when we eat it that affects our risk of heart disease.
“What we eat is still important, but when we are rushed it can seem simpler to just grab what is available rather than seeking out a healthy choice. Taking a few minutes to plan ahead before you do your food shop will help to ensure that you eat regular meals and make nutritious choices throughout the week.”