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Dr Sneh Khemka

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Why Breakfast Really Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Posted: 13/04/2012 00:00

Over the long Easter weekend, the daily papers were more than likely read by many over a leisurely breakfast. And for a lot of men, this came as quite good news, as the weekend headlines delivered the latest diabetes risk factor - men who skip breakfast are more at risk of developing diabetes compared to those who routinely eat when they get up.

However, those enjoying a bank holiday breakfast aren't necessarily regular morning eaters, leaving many men reassessing how they should start their day.

Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health tracked 29,206 men for 16 years who were initially free of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The outcome? They discovered that men who missed breakfast had a staggering 21% higher risk of developing diabetes than men who didn't. Food for thought if you're guilty of not eating until later in the day...

Interestingly, the study showed that men who are not overweight and eat a healthy, balanced diet the rest of the time could still be at an increased risk if they skip the first meal of the day.

Breakfast not only puts the key in the ignition and gets your metabolism going, it has been shown to reduce levels of 'bad' cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) in your blood. Men who skip breakfast may also be tempted to grab an unhealthy, sugary snack before lunch to satisfy hunger cravings, making blood sugar levels peak sharply, but then crash just as quickly.

Reading the study, the question sprung to mind - why men? There is no reason why the ultimate message from this study (to eat breakfast) shouldn't apply to both sexes. Although the same research has not yet been done in females, it's more than likely that skipping breakfast could have the same effect on women. The long-standing message that breakfast plays a role in maintaining good health should be taken on board by everyone.

And remember, it's not just having breakfast that's important, but equally choosing a healthy option. Weight and waist circumference are both directly related to developing type 2 diabetes. The more overweight and the more inactive you are, the greater your risk - 80% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

If you're a women, having a waist that measures 31.5in (80cm) or more increases your risk. If you're a man, regardless of being white or black, having a waist that measures 37in (94cm) or more increases your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. And if you're an Asian man, the measurement is lower - 35in (90cm) or more and your chances are higher.

The link between weight and diabetes may have slightly more relevance to men than women. In September 2011, a study revealed that men are more prone to type 2 diabetes than women, and develop it at a lower body mass index than women do. Scientists believe this is due to where body fat is distributed - men tend to store it in their liver and around their waist where many of our vital organs are found. Women, however, tend to store body fat more on their hips and thighs, which experts deem as 'safe' stored fat.

According to Diabetes UK statistics, in 2009, the prevalence of diabetes in men was almost twice that of the prevalence in women between the ages of 35 and 54.

Some predisposing factors to diabetes may be out of your control, such as family history of the condition or your ethnic background, but avoidable factors, such as obesity, can be managed to reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. And looking at recent research, it seems men might have to work a little harder to reduce that risk.

Diabetes is a growing problem. In the UK, around 2.6 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes. By 2025, it's predicted that there will be more than 4 million people with the condition. A western diet and poor lifestyle is to blame for a big chunk of this figure; something each and every one of us can change. Now that Easter is over, maybe it's not just time to cut back on the chocolate, but to improve all aspects of your diet and health...and it can all start at the breakfast table tomorrow.

 

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