According to a new study published online from Harvard School of Public Health last week, men who routinely missed breakfast had a significantly greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And men who ate only once or twice a day were also at increased risk for the disease.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity (especially abdominal obesity), inactivity, impaired fasting glucose (pre-diabetes), family history and increasing age.
The study followed 51,529 healthy men, aged 40 to 75, for 16 years. Dietary questionnaires were completed at the start of the study and then every four years thereafter.
Compared to breakfast eaters, men who skipped the meal were 21% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over the 16-year period, even after accounting for body weight.
In addition, men who skipped breakfast and followed a western-style diet – characterized by a higher intake of red meat, processed meat, refined grains, sweets and desserts – had an even greater risk of diabetes.
Eating three main meals per day, including breakfast, was the optimal pattern for protection against type 2 diabetes. Men who ate only once or twice per day – rather than three – had a 25% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Breakfast helps control appetite and blood-sugar levels. Studies show skipping breakfast results in increased levels of ghrelin, an appetite-related hormone, which can cause hunger and overeating.
Choose low-glycemic carbs
A breakfast based on quickly digested carbohydrates such as white bread, refined and sugary cereals, muffins and pastries causes a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin, which can trigger hunger and slow or even stop the breakdown of body fat.
Low-glycemic carbohydrates release sugar more slowly into the bloodstream and don’t produce a big amount of insulin. They include grainy breads, steel-cut and large-flake oats, bran cereal, oat bran, apples, citrus fruit, grapes, pears, nuts, milk, yogurt and soy beverages.
Breakfast should include at least five grams of fibre, preferably more. A fibre-rich breakfast has been shown to slow the rise in blood sugar after eating and improve how the body uses insulin.
To increase fibre at breakfast, choose 100-per-cent whole-grain breads, breakfast cereals with at least five grams of fibre per serving, and eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice.
To put the brakes on your appetite throughout the morning, include at least one protein-rich food at breakfast such as yogurt, milk, part-skim cheese, cottage cheese, soy beverage, egg whites, turkey and salmon.