Skipping Breakfast Impacts Weight, Blood Sugar, Cardiovascular Health

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

October 19, 2020

Skipping Breakfast Impacts Weight, Blood Sugar, Cardiovascular Health
Do you find yourself rushing out the door and skipping breakfast? Or perhaps you have little appetite in the morning. In recent years, numerous studies have identified adverse health consequences from skipping breakfast. Even with different age groups, demographics, economic status, and other factors, research provides consistent findings – regularly skipping breakfast adversely impacts your health.

Cardiovascular Disease

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2019 published a prospective cohort study that evaluated cardiovascular disease, mortality, and skipping breakfast. Over 6,500 participants of the NHANES III survey ages 40-75 years were followed for a period of 17-23 years. Age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, etc. were accounted for. Findings showed “skipping breakfast was associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. Our study supports the benefits of eating breakfast in promoting cardiovascular health.”

In the American Journal of Cardiology, a 2019 meta-analysis study on heart disease and breakfast was published. It included a total of 284,484 participants with their habits on skipping breakfast (all the time, 75 percent, 50 percent, 25 percent or never). Again, results showed “skipping breakfast is associated with the increased risk of heart disease.”

Diabetes and Hypertension

Skipping breakfast is not helpful either for diabetics. A 2019 Journal of Nutrition systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluated data from 96,175 participants. Individuals who skipped breakfast 4-5 times per week had a 55 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who ate breakfast everyday had the lowest risk. Other similar type studies agreed. Skipping breakfast “significantly increased” the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Clinical trials in healthy, lean young women showed that when breakfast was omitted, insulin sensitivity was impaired. They also experienced an increase in total and LDL cholesterol levels. Women who consistently ate breakfast had better cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity and consumed fewer calories per day.

In the 2014 Korean NHANES study, evidence was clear. Healthy adults who consistently ate breakfast had lower risk of hypertension


Skipping breakfast or irregular meal times increases inflammation levels and leads to weight gain. A cross-sectional study of over 70,000 Chinese adults demonstrated that those who skipped breakfast had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Those who consumed a poor diet quality with breakfast also experienced increased inflammation. CRP measures the amount of acute inflammation occurring in your body.


Several studies have evaluated skipping breakfast and its association with obesity. A January 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis study evaluated 45 observational studies on the connection of obesity and skipping breakfast in adults. Continually skipping breakfast increased abdominal obesity. It did not matter the age, gender, economic condition, or region.

Similar meta-analysis was completed with children and adolescents. Cross-sectional studies showed that the risk of obesity was 43 percent higher in children and adolescents who skipped breakfast compared to those who consistently ate breakfast.

Skipping Breakfast, Mental Health, and Habits

College students notoriously struggle with getting out of bed in the morning and oftentimes skip breakfast. A recent 2020 study evaluated nearly 22,000 university students, average age of 20, from 28 different countries. Skipping breakfast was linked with declines in mental and academic performance.

Additional consequences were noted. Students also consumed inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, but drank more soda pop, alcohol, used tobacco, did not exercise, and had other negative behaviors. Lack of breakfast also increased concerns with depression, loneliness, poor sleep, several sleep disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mortality Rates

People who regularly consume breakfast tend to make other healthier choices in their daily routine. A Japanese cohort study evaluated breakfast and health habits with nearly 85,000 people for about 20 years. Results showed that individuals who skipped breakfast were more likely to smoke, walk less than 60 minutes per day, had less than 3 hours of physical activity per week, ate at irregular times and snacked every day. Findings also showed that those who skipped breakfast experienced higher mortality rates from cancer, circulatory and cardiovascular diseases in men and women.

Breakfast Entrains Your Body Clocks

Several reasons have been identified on why chronically skipping breakfast is so detrimental to health. At the forefront of cause is the issue of chronobiology disruption. Chronobiology refers to the natural physiological rhythms entwined with the day/night circadian cycle and your body clocks.

In the case of your morning meal, breakfast literally turns on signals that are at the heart of healthy metabolism. Your first meal of the day within a short time after awakening turns on insulin and chronobiology mechanisms that signal activity within your fundamental biological clocks. Morning breakfast is the “on switch” for the Clock/Bmal1 to E-box, your liver clock gene, and the rhythm of the CYP7A1 gene. It sets and synchronizes the metabolic tone of your body clocks with the natural day-night circadian rhythm.

However, when you consistently or even occasionally skip breakfast, clock genes and chronobiology rhythms are disturbed. Disrupted meal timing causes your liver and chronobiology metabolism to fall out of sync. This impairs how the liver manages cholesterol and insulin levels. It further dysregulates body clocks and metabolism within your adipose tissue, pancreas and muscles. The effect over time with inefficient metabolism and inflammation is higher risk and incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, insulin and leptin resistance, chronic inflammation, cancer and more.

Popular Trend Versus Chronobiology

A current popular trend is intermittent fasting that generally calls for you to consume all your food within a few hours in the middle of the day. While there are success stories of weight loss and improvements in health, I strongly encourage you weigh the evidence.

At the core of life on this planet is the connection to the natural day-night circadian rhythms. Chronobiology is at the absolute center of cellular regulation, function, and metabolism. Meal timing and chronobiology conducts patterns of hormone release like leptin, grehlin, insulin, adiponectin, and cholecystokinin while impacting gene signals. Studies across the globe with all different types of ethnic backgrounds and economic status show that skipping breakfast adversely affects health and disrupts the natural chronobiology process. Meal-timing entrains our body clock.

Breakfast Quality

In addition to meal-timing and breakfast in the morning, macronutrient balance must be considered. A balanced breakfast with adequate protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates sets your clocks at a proper metabolic pace. However, a high carbohydrate breakfast that lacks protein, good fats, fiber, and vitamins adversely shifts your body clocks out of rhythm. This too creates a stress response and increases disease risk.

Two recent small studies found that those who consumed a traditional Nordic or Italian breakfast experienced lower risk of abdominal fat, inflammation, hypertension, and/or elevated lipids in comparison to other types of breakfast. Common foods consumed were oat bran porridge with yogurt or milk, whole grain bread, brioche or biscuit, poultry or fatty fish, and fruit.

Some healthy American style choices may include organic eggs, organic unsweetened yogurt or kefir, or organic breakfast sausage, ham, or bacon with a small serving of organic oats, quinoa or other whole grains with a piece of fruit. If you need a quick breakfast, try a protein smoothie mixed with fiber, 2 percent or whole milk or other beverage, and some berries, peach or other fruit.

If you have a queasy stomach or no appetite in the morning, still try to have breakfast within two hours after awakening. Over time, the natural rhythm and appetite resumes. A warm cup of ginger tea, veggie broth or bone broth with small breakfast can help soothe a sensitive stomach. Choose warm, cooked foods such as a poached egg and a small bowl of cooked quinoa or gluten free oats with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Something is better than not eating.

Before you and your kids run out the door in the morning in a frenzy or dive into work or school from home, make sure you get the day off to a great start with breakfast. It pays big long-term dividends into your health. Your grandmother was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Additional Resources

The Five Rules of The Leptin Diet

Leptin Diet Rule #4 

Snacking and Skipping Breakfast Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

The Power of Protein for Breakfast

Body Clocks and Weight Management – It’s All About Timing 

Disrupted Gut Clocks Linked with IBS, GERD, Obesity, and Other GI Concerns 

The Blood Sugar Hormone Adiponectin is Linked to Your Circadian Clock

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