Why Skipping Breakfast Could Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

Do you eat breakfast? It turns out skipping “the most important meal of the day” could increase your risk of heart disease. There are a surprisingly large number of possible side effects linked to skipping meals, especially if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight and heart over time. Why do so many people skip breakfast? And why does it matter? Check out Page 4 for a full rundown!

Many Americans don’t eat breakfast

Oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, chia seeds on a wooden table.

Why are we skipping breakfast? | Wmaster890/iStock/Getty Images

Up to 25% of adults and 36% of teens don’t eat breakfast every day.

Despite many possible benefits of regularly eating breakfast, a lot of people choose not to. According to research published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, many Americans simply skip out on their recommended early-morning calorie intake. While there’s no evidence doing so directly causes weight gain, other risks of skipping the opportunity for a balanced meal might produce even worse results.

The short-term consequences are rough

A man picks up and inspects a box of cereal.

You should be picking up breakfast staples every time you shop. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Skipping meals makes you cranky, unfocused, and desperate for a sugar fix.

You shouldn’t feel hungry an entire hour into your work day. Whether it’s because you aren’t eating enough or you aren’t eating anything at all, missing out on even a snack-sized meal early on in the day makes everything harder. As your blood sugar plummets, so does your mood, your ability to concentrate, and your willingness to resist vending machine treats. Coffee is a stimulant, not an energy booster.

In the long-term, your health will probably suffer

A woman looks over at a bowl of cereal.

If you’re not a breakfast person, it might take some getting used to. | Lolostock/iStock/Getty Images

Major changes in your metabolism can cause severe consequences.

There are some benefits to skipping breakfast, especially if it means eating less sugar and fat overall. However, consistently skipping meals or not eating at all can majorly impact your metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests skipping breakfast can make it more difficult for your body to regulate metabolism, which can impact your body’s response to insulin and the development of inflammation.

Here’s what science says about breakfast and your heart

Bowl of cereal and coffee mug.

Eat now, reap the benefits later. | Warrengoldswain/iStock/Getty Images

You’re more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack later in life.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology warns of a possible link between skipping breakfast and heart disease. Of the 4,000 study participants, atherosclerosis occurred more often among those who didn’t eat breakfast. This heart condition causes hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which increases your chances of heart attack, stroke, and other related ailments. These participants were also more likely to live an unhealthy lifestyle than those who did not miss a morning meal.

How does diet cause heart disease?

Breakfast toast with avocado.

Get your day started out on the right foot. | Ginew/iStock/Getty Images

Saturated fat, sodium, AND sugar destroy your arteries.

Biscuits and gravy might sound like a great idea in the moment, but eating that every day definitely isn’t. Though saturated fat usually catches most of the blame for America’s heart disease problem, it isn’t the only diet flaw increasing your risk. Even if you skip breakfast, eating tons of sugar, drinking too much alcohol, and avoiding fruits and veggies throughout the rest of your meals all put you at higher risk. It’s what you eat all day, not just what you do (or don’t) eat at one meal, that matters.

Maybe we’re just trying to avoid bad breakfast food

Strawberry Toaster Pastry on a white tray.

Pop-Tarts may have been tasty to you as a kid, but they won’t nourish your body. | iStock.com

Sometimes, avoiding food altogether seems easier than trying to make healthy choices.

Cereal, Pop-Tarts, and instant pre-flavored oatmeal aren’t the best — or healthiest — food options first thing in the morning. You know this. Maybe, instead of choosing something better, it’s easier just to skip breakfast altogether and start eating healthy food at lunch. Many people skip breakfast in an attempt to lose weight. While TIME Health does acknowledge people who skip breakfast burn more calories, their risk of inflammation and insulin resistance might increase. Is losing weight really worth that risk?

So what should you eat instead to stay healthy?

Bacon and eggs in iron skillet.

Bacon and eggs don’t always have to be a greasy mess. | Rez-art/iStock/Getty Images

The first meal of your day doesn’t have to be fancy — or complicated.

Whether you want to lose weight, boost your energy, or keep your heart strong and healthy, what you eat first thing in the morning matters. Eggs and bacon, though often criticized for their fat content, actually provide much more nutrition than breakfast cereal. Fiber and protein count! Also, use the term “breakfast” however you want. If the first time you eat in the morning happens to be at 10 a.m. during your morning break, that’s better than no breakfast at all.