Skipping just one breakfast a week can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 20 percent, according to new research from the Harvard University School of Public Health. The findings were published in a recent edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study evaluated the eating habits and health of 46,289 women over the course of six years. After adjusting for other factors such as body mass index (BMI), carbohydrate consumption, smoking and physical activity, the researchers found that women who skipped breakfast once in a while still ran a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate breakfast on a daily basis. For women who missed breakfast more often (roughly 54 percent of the time), the risk became even higher.
The information adds to a growing body of research that connects breakfast to good health. For instance, a large study from the University of Minnesota published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that men and women who ate breakfast frequently lowered their risk of obesity and high blood pressure.
The reason breakfast is so critical is that it helps reboot your metabolism.
“When you go to bed, your insulin level is flat—not too low, not too high,” the lead author of the Harvard study, Rania Mekary, told Women’s Health. If you don’t “break the fast” when you wake up, your insulin level drops, meaning it's more likely to spike and then crash after lunch, she explained. If this happens often enough over time, your body may develop insulin resistance—a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes.
To keep your body on track, you should eat a healthy breakfast within one or two hours of waking up. For the best outcomes, try a meal that’s low in sugar and high in fiber and protein. Not only will you lower your risk for diabetes, but you may also see the additional benefits of a morning meal, including more energy, fewer midday cravings, and a healthy weight.