People who skip breakfast are more likely to have dangerous plaque buildup in their arteries, which puts them at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.
Skipping breakfast has been associated with being heavier and having higher cholesterol levels. But the new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, linked it to the early stages of atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of arteries.
For the study, researchers analyzed dietary data from more than 4,000 men and women, ages 40 to 54, living in Spain. The people were then split into three groups, based on how many calories they had for their morning meal: less than 5%, between 5 and 20% or more than 20%.
Only about 3% of people fell into the first category, meaning they skipped breakfast entirely and only had coffee, juice or another beverage. The majority—about 69%—ate low-calorie breakfasts (like toast or small pastries), while the remaining 28% ate larger, substantial meals. The researchers didn’t further analyze each group’s breakfast breakdown, but it’s likely that the larger meals most closely represented what nutrition experts generally recommend for the first meal of the day: more whole grains, protein, healthy fats and fruits and fewer refined grains and added sugars.