Your mother did always tell you not to skip your breakfast, and that wasn’t for no reason. Eating a good breakfast is consistently touted as one of the healthiest things a person can do, yet many people continue to skip it during their morning rush. Now a study shows that teens who aren’t eating breakfast regularly could be at risk of developing metabolic syndrome in adulthood.

Metabolic syndrome is an all-encompassing term for various problems, including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, or a resistance to insulin. Someone with three or more of those risks is considered to have metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart Association. Metabolic syndrome puts someone at risk for a range of chronic diseases, from heart disease to diabetes to stroke. According to the National Institutes of Health, someone with metabolic syndrome is two times as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome. All the more reason to take an extra 20 minutes every morning to eat some breakfast.

For the study, researchers from Umea University in Sweden asked 889 16-year-old students in 1981 about their breakfast habits, with skipped meals, or only eating or drinking something sweet considered to be a poor habit — 9.9 percent were considered to have poor breakfast habits. Twenty-seven years later, the researchers brought the 43-year-old participants back to check on their health and found that those who skipped breakfast as kids were 68 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome as adults.

Out of all the possible issues that contribute to metabolic syndrome, the researchers found that abdominal obesity and high fasting blood sugar levels were the most associated with skipping breakfast. In a statement, Maria Wennberg, the study’s main author from the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine at the university, said that more studies will need to look into how skipping breakfast contributes to metabolic syndrome, “but our results … suggest that a poor breakfast can have a negative effect on blood sugar regulation.”  

A study from last September also found that eating a big, hearty breakfast high in proteins and fat more effectively lowered blood sugar levels and blood pressure. The reason for this, the researchers found, was because people who ate large breakfasts were more likely to forget about hunger — and therefore, food — for a good part of the day. This led to less eating and healthier lifestyles. Another study from August also found big breakfasts to be best, with a caloric reduction in each meal thereafter.

Type 2 diabetes, which is caused by high blood sugar, affects about 95 percent of the 26 million Americans living with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. It affects Hispanics and African-Americans nearly two times as much as non-Hispanic whites, and prevents their bodies from producing insulin, which transfers sugar in the blood into the cells.

 

Source: Wennberg M, Gustafsson P, Wennberg P, et al. Poor breakfast habits in adolescence predict the metabolic syndrome in adulthood. Public Health Nutrition. 2014.