Can Eating Breakfast Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

If you're someone who regularly skips breakfast, it might be time to restructure your morning to fit it in. The immediate and long-term effects are an investment in your health and wellbeing.
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I make it a habit to regularly ask about my patients' dietary habits, and it sometimes surprises me how few of us regularly eat breakfast. We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and recently medical researchers have uncovered a long term health benefit behind the adage. Eating breakfast can decrease our chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In two studies, one done in men and another in women, researchers followed people's eating patterns over decades.[1][2] They found people who regularly ate breakfast lowered their chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by over 30 percent. They found people decrease their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 5 percent for each day of the week they ate breakfast. Previous research in nutrition has shown that skipping even a single breakfast can cause insulin resistance, a distinctive feature of Type 2 diabetes, for the next meal.[3]

In another study, where their subjects were trying to lose weight by reducing calories, researchers found people who usually skipped breakfast and then started eating breakfast lost more weight than those who ate the same amount of calories in just two meals.[4] Though interestingly, if someone normally ate breakfast, they lost more weight if they then skipped it during the experiment. They also found that people who ate breakfast helped reduce snacking. Moral of the story, changing eating habits was predictive of losing weight in this study.

But not all breakfasts are created the equal. What we eat matters, too. Another study compared eating breakfasts either high in carbohydrates or high in protein. They found eating a breakfast high in protein increased satiety (the feeling of satisfaction from eating) by decreasing the amount of hormones that cause hunger.[5] I've found working with patients, and in my own life, that an adequate amount of protein (and fiber) in the morning can make a big difference with regards to feeling energetic and satisfied until lunch. I find it's a good aim to get a third of our daily protein from breakfast. This calculator can help you find out how much that might be. That said, our needs for protein depend on our body weight, age, activity level and overall health, so check with a qualified health care professional before making drastic changes in your dietary habits to make sure they're right for you.

If you're someone who regularly skips breakfast, it might be time to restructure your morning to fit it in. The immediate and long-term effects are an investment in your health and well-being.

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[1] Mekary RA, Giovannucci E, Willett WC, van Dam RM, Hu FB. Eating patterns and
type 2 diabetes risk in men: breakfast omission, eating frequency, and snacking.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;95(5):1182-9. Epub 2012 Mar 28. PubMed PMID: 22456660; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3325839.

[2] American Diabetes Association (ADA) 72nd Scientific Sessions: Abstract 1364-P. Presented June 10, 2012.

[3] Astbury NM, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Breakfast consumption affects appetite,
energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later
in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. J Nutr. 2011 Jul;141(7):1381-9.
Epub 2011 May 11. PubMed PMID: 21562233.

[4] Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, Sharp T. The role of breakfast
in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992
Mar;55(3):645-51. PubMed PMID: 1550038.

[5] Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, Hendriks HF.
Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. Am J
Clin Nutr.
2006 Feb;83(2):211-20. PubMed PMID: 16469977.

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