Men who regularly skip breakfast may be at a 27 per cent higher risk of heart attack than those who take their morning meal, a large 16-year study has warned.
According to the study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, men who reported they skipped breakfast had a higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease.
The timing of meals, whether it's missing a meal in the morning or eating a meal very late at night, may cause adverse metabolic effects that lead to coronary heart disease.
Even after accounting for modest differences in diet, physical activity, smoking and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast (or eating very late at night) and coronary heart disease persisted.
Researchers analysed food frequency questionnaire data and tracked health outcomes for 16 years (1992-2008) on 26,902 male health professionals ages 45-82.
During the study, 1,572 of the men had first-time cardiac events.
The study found that men who reported eating late at night (eating after going to bed) had a 55 per cent higher coronary heart disease risk than those who didn't.
However, researchers were less convinced this was a major public health concern because few men in the study reported this behaviour.
"Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time," said Leah E Cahill, study lead author and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
"Our study group has spent decades studying the health effects of diet quality and composition, and now this new data also suggests overall dietary habits can be important to lower risk of coronary heart disease," said Eric Rimm, senior author and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.
Men who reported eating breakfast ate on average one more time per day than those who skipped breakfast, implying that those who abstained from breakfast were not eating additional make-up meals later in the day.
Although there was some overlap between those who skipped breakfast and those who ate late at night, 76 per cent of late-night eaters also ate breakfast, researchers said.
While the current study group was composed of men who were of 97 per cent white European descent, the results should also apply to women and other ethnic groups, but this should be tested in additional studies, researchers said.