In a previous article, I shared how an Alameda County health study that discovered the seven keys to longevity. One of the simplest of these seven keys is to eat breakfast.
But first, here’s a refresher of the seven keys to living a long life:
- Sleeping seven to eight hours per night
- No eating between meals
- Eating regular breakfasts
- Maintaining a proper weight
- Exercising regularly
- Moderate or no drinking of alcohol
- Not smoking
Why am I choosing to focus on breakfast? As easy as eating breakfast can be, it can be just as easy to forget or, more often, neglect breakfast. You might be running late to work, you want to lose weight, cooking breakfast takes too long, you want to sleep in, you’re not hungry because you had a late dinner, and the list goes on.
So, why is breakfast so important and how can eating breakfast add years to your life?
The numbers don’t lie. Eat breakfast to not die.
In the original data that was collected from the Alameda County study, the men that ate breakfast and didn’t eat between meals had less than 50% less risk of death of men that skipped breakfast and snacked1. Moreover, in a more recent analysis of the Alameda County study showed that of the individuals ages 60-94, those who did not eat breakfast had a 50% increase in the risk of death compared to those that ate breakfast regularly.2
It’s almost too simple, but eating breakfast is powerfully correlated with a longer and more enjoyable life. When I was in high school, a glass of orange juice was all I felt I needed for breakfast. But, when I was exposed to the enormous benefits of breakfast, it became a no-brainer for me to prioritize my first meal of the day.
The myth behind breakfast and weight loss
Unfortunately, it’s common practice to skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight. The logic behind this is that if you skip breakfast, you won’t be eating as many calories as you would have if you had eaten breakfast. To be blunt, this is a myth. What researchers found is that those that eat more for breakfast and lunch will lose weight faster than those who eat a large dinner.
In American culture, the last meal is traditionally the biggest but we would do well to decrease or even eliminate our last meal of the day and get the majority of our calories earlier in the day. The patients that did this not only saw more weight loss but also showed reduced risk for diabetes and thyroid problems3.
Breakfast and reduced heart attack risk
When do most heart attacks happen? Between seven in the morning and noon. Why is this, and what does breakfast have to do with it? Platelets, the part of our blood that is responsible for clotting, are “stickier” in the morning after you wake up. This increases the tendency of blood clots in the morning that can lead to heart attack. Eating breakfast can help to reduce the “stickiness” of platelets and thus reduce the risk of morning heart attacks4.
Additional benefits of breakfast
In 1995, the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Davis conducted a meta-analysis study to review the scientific studies on breakfast. In a nutshell, what they found was that breakfast is associated with the following benefits in children and adults5:
- More efficient problem solving
- Improved memory
- Increased verbal fluency
- Improved attention span
- Better attitudes
- Better scholastic scores
All this evidence leads to the conclusive argument that a healthy breakfast can not only add years to your life but also add life to your years.
1) Belloc NB. Relationship of health practices and mortality. Prev Med 1973 Mar;2(1):67-81
2) Kaplan GA, Seeman TE, et al. Mortality among the elderly in the Alameda County Study: behavioral and demographic risk factors. Americal Journal of Public Health 1987 Mar;77(3):307-312
3) Carter JP, Brown J. Dr. Cupp’s simple Approach to Weight Loss. Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society 1985; 137(6):35-38.
4) Raloff J. Breakfast may reduce morning heart attack risk. Science News 1991 April 20;139(16):246-247.
5) Mathews R. Importance of breakfast to cognitive performance and health. Prospective of applied Nutrition 1996;3(3):210.