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Can eating breakfast decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes?

image courtesy musicfanatic29 via Flickr

It’s commonly said that eating breakfast fuels the day. Now there’s another reason to start off with a morning meal.

A study by University of Minnesota School of Public Health researchers has found consuming breakfast daily, regardless of diet quality, is strongly associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The latest study, led by researcher Andrew O. Odegaard, Ph.D., from the School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, appears today in the online version of journal Diabetes Care.

“Dietary guidelines have recently recommended that people eat something in the morning, but the relationship between breakfast intake frequency and metabolic risk, like type 2 diabetes, hasn’t been well studied until now,” said Odegaard.

To understand the relationship between breakfast and type 2 diabetes, researchers analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, and reviewed 3,598 participants who did not have type 2 diabetes when breakfast and dietary habits were assessed.

“Previous studies of breakfast frequency have looked at it as all or nothing; either you eat breakfast or you don’t,” said Odegaard. “Yet there’s evidence suggesting people have an array of breakfast intake frequencies. Therefore, we examined and compared a range of breakfast frequencies with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions over 18 years.”

Based on the data:

  • 43.2 percent of participants reported infrequent breakfast intake (0-3 days / week)
  •  21.7 percent reported eating breakfast frequently (4-6 days / week)
  • 35.1 percent of participants reported eating breakfast daily (7 days / week).

Compared to infrequent breakfast eaters, frequent breakfast eaters and daily breakfast eaters each had a significantly lower risk of abdominal obesity, obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes in a ranked manner.

Furthermore, researchers found no evidence that the relationship between frequently eating breakfast and metabolic risk changed with a person’s overall diet quality.

“We ranked dietary quality into quartiles with the lowest section representing the poorest overall quality and the highest section representing a theorized ‘best overall dietary pattern,’” said Odegaard. “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.”

Although the quality of a person’s overall dietary pattern is important for health, the results from this study suggest the act of “breaking the fast” may be important for metabolic health even when accounting for the person’s overall diet quality.

“Our study – and other burgeoning evidence – suggest that science is catching up to the early nutritional beliefs related of a morning meal,” said Odegaard. “Eating a daily breakfast is a dietary habit that may be highly relevant for a person’s metabolic health.”

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