It can boost energy, improve concentration, and stave off weight gain. But that’s not all—it might even help prevent type 2 diabetes. In fact, according to the results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, skipping breakfast even just once a week is linked to a 20 percent increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In other words, there is no excuse for skipping this important meal.
Researchers from the Harvard University School of Public Health analyzed the eating patterns of 46,289 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women were considered healthy and were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The researchers evaluated their eating patterns and health outcomes over the course of six years.
At the end of the study, they found that women who skipped breakfast sporadically had a 20 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared with women who ate breakfast every day. What’s more, the risk was even higher among women who worked full time and skipped breakfast: 54 percent. Even after adjusting for other factors such as age, BMI, carbohydrate consumption, smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity, and working status, breakfast was important.
Breakfast, Insulin, and Diabetes
What does breakfast have to do with diabetes? It’s all about the insulin. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to transport glucose into the cells, which results in lower blood sugar levels. Food affects our blood sugar level, which in turn affects our insulin level. So, if you skip breakfast in the morning—after fasting all night—your insulin level drops. Once you finally eat later in the day, your insulin level is likely to spike and then crash. It’s this constant fluctuation in insulin levels that can lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
If you want to avoid the constant blood sugar fluctuations—and the irritability, fatigue, and weight gain that go along with them—start by making breakfast a priority.
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Eat within an hour of waking up.
- Eat a balanced breakfast that is low in sugar and high in fiber and protein.
Need some healthy breakfast ideas? Learn how to build a better breakfast.
Mekary RA, Giovannucci E, Cahill L, et al. Eating patterns and type 2 diabetes risk in older women: breakfast consumption and eating frequency. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013; 98(2): 436-443.