Why you must never skip breakfast

By The Citizen

June 27, 2016 would make it four years since Mr. Joe Emeka got a job as a teller in a bank at Marina on Lagos Island. Emeka, 35, resumes work by 7:30am every morning but due to the distance from his house in Akute, Ogun State, to his office, he said all he does before leaving the house in the morning is to have his bath, dress up and rush out of the house to avoid being late to work.

Due to his work schedule, Emeka said he wakes up by 5am and leaves the house latest by 5:30 every morning, thus, he never has time to eat breakfast. His situation is further exacerbated by the fact that by the time he gets to the office, it would be resumption time; hence he wouldn't have the time to eat, and usually the earliest he could eat would be lunch time, which he has been constrained to skip many times because of the volume of customers he and his other colleagues have to attend to.

'I can't remember the last time I ate breakfast and I guess I'm used to it now. The only time in the week I have the opportunity to eat breakfast is Saturday because even on Sunday, I leave the house for church at 6am and we usually come back around 11am. So, for me, it's like a norm now,' he said.

Emeka is just one out of millions of people worldwide who do not eat breakfast. The reasons people give for not eating in the morning include job demands, lack of what to eat and lack of appetite

Even though it has become a popular saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it appears that not many are familiar with the harmful effects of skipping this important meal, because findings showed that many still do not eat breakfast.

Going by the words of some scientists and the findings of some researchers, skipping breakfast is not good for the body as it could increase the chance of having heart related problems and obesity. They claim such people tend to have cold and influenza but that if they eat cereals in the morning, the nutrients therefrom could help to reduce levels of a harmful amino acid that is known to cause cardiac disease.

They add eating breakfast helps to reduce the likelihood of having diabetes, heart attack and obesity.

For instance, some researchers from Harvard University in the   United States surveyed 27,000 people. The participants were educated health professionals, like dentists, veterinary doctors, etc., and the youngest among them was 45. In the course of the study, which lasted 16 years, some of the participants were told to eat breakfast regularly while some others were also instructed to skip breakfast regularly.

At the end of the study, it was found that 1,527 participants of those who skipped breakfast regularly suffered heart attacks, be it fatal or non-fatal, and that these people who skipped breakfast regularly had 27 per cent higher risk of a heart attack than those who ate breakfast regularly. The researchers believe the results of the study could apply to people of other age range.

They said people who don't eat breakfast tend to have a higher risk of heart attack because such people tend to be hungry more than necessary later in the day and are more likely to eat bigger meals to quench their hunger and cover up for the time they didn't eat.

But that is not the main reason. The main reason, according to them, is that when such people consume large amount of food, the body is constrained to process a larger amount of calories at a time within a limited time, which could increase blood sugar levels and possibly lead to clogged arteries, giving birth to heart problem.

'It's a really simple message, breakfast is an important meal,' said Eric Rimm, one of the study authors at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In their report on Mail Online, they explained that morning meal, especially a balanced diet, could help to control blood sugar levels and the level of insulin, which is the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood and the lack of it causes a form of diabetes. Thus, they said, when people eat too much of sugary food, their body could produce too much insulin, making the body to process sugar more quickly, leading to a crash in the blood sugar levels.

Meanwhile, a study by an assistant professor of epidemiology, University of Minnesota, United States, Andrew Odegaard, to see if there is a link between skipping breakfast and some health challenges like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, shows that beyond the other identified benefits, eating breakfast daily, regardless of the quality of the diet, is strongly associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 'We don't know whether it's the timing or content of breakfast that is important. It's probably both,' he added.

Odegaard explained that from his study, he found that when compared to people who do not eat morning meal frequently, those who eat breakfast frequently have a 'significantly lower risk of abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes in a ranked manner.'

He said even though eating a balanced diet is good for the body, having something to eat at the appropriate time is all that is important for metabolic health. 'Eating a daily breakfast is a dietary habit that may be highly relevant for a person's metabolic health,' he said.

He continued, 'We ranked dietary quality into quartiles with the lowest section representing the poorest overall quality and the highest section representing a theorised best overall dietary pattern. Across all dietary quality quartiles, with greater breakfast intake frequency, there was a decrease in incidence rate of type 2 diabetes and the other metabolic conditions.'

Dr. Mark Pereira also of the University of Minnesota added, 'Our results suggest that breakfast may really be the most important meal of the day. It appears that breakfast may play an important role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.'

Notably, it is not only adults who need to eat breakfast, previous studies have shown that children also need it as much. The studies pointed out that children need morning meal for the requisite strength and nutrient. In fact, a previous study had shown that children who eat breakfast tend to have higher test scores than those who didn't, because of their inability to be focused and concentrate in class. The study stressed that it is important for children to eat breakfast, in moderate quantity though.

On the whole, the researchers emphasised that having breakfast regularly plays a pivotal role in people's overall well being as it helps them to be active in the morning, reduces their likelihood of having heart-related problems, diabetes and obesity.

Commenting on the essence of taking breakfast, a nutritionist, Mr. Okunola Oladimeji, said it is important to eat in the morning 'to break the fast' that started the previous night due to the number of hours in between, but that people should also mind what they eat as breakfast.

He said, 'Just like the name implies, break the fast, when we sleep, there is basal metabolism going on, which is energy expended during sleep, solely to maintain vital cellular activity, respiration, and circulation. So, our energy level becomes low when we wake up in the morning. For this reason, we need fresh energy to kick-start the day's work from and that is why we need to eat breakfast.

'Another reason is that when people skip breakfast, they have the tendency to consume more calories than what their body needs later in the day. This calorie may not be used up by the body between the time it is consumed and bed time, thereby causing some discomfort or undesirable weight gain. Also, people who skip breakfast are more likely to pick up various snacks and drinks and end up having more than needed calories available.'

On the kind of food good for breakfast, he said people should avoid heavy calorie food that would be slow to digest, as it could cause discomfort.

He added, 'Good breakfast could include fruit juice, preferably fresh fruits, cereals, beverages and food rich in protein, like boiled egg, omelette or scrambled eggs. We can also have bread, like white bread. In all, breakfast should have all the nutrients, like carbohydrate, fat, protein and vitamins, but people should avoid heavy food.' - Punch.