Health Medical Uncategorized

Skipping meals may save time but will cost you in health and mortality


HQ Team

January 17, 2023: Skipping a meal a day has more dire consequences than realised earlier. We are generally advised never to skip breakfast, as it is considered the fuel that runs your whole day. But according to a new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, missing any meal can lead to mortality risks in the long run.

For the study, 24,011 US adults over 40 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2014 were followed. An ongoing, nationally representative health survey of the non-institutionalized US population, NHANES collects a wide range of health-related data to assess diet, nutritional status, general health, disease history, and health behaviours every two years.

It was found that skipping breakfast was associated with a greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD), while skipping lunch or dinner was associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality, including a rise in CVD risk.

People who had all three meals in a day but had them too close together, such as within 4.5 hours of each other, were also shown to be linked to increased all-cause death risk.

The researchers found around 30 percent of the study participants regularly had fewer than three meals a day. According to the data, younger people, males, and people from a low-income background and less education were more likely to skip meals.

People who smoked or drank alcohol or those who ate less nutritious food and had more processed food were more likely to skip a meal.

The data highlights the importance of regular refueling stops for the body.

“Our research revealed that individuals eating only one meal a day are more likely to die than those who had more daily meals,” noted lead author Yangbo Sun, MBBS, PhD, Department of Preventive Medicine, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis. TN, USA. 

“Based on these findings, we recommend eating at least two to three meals spread throughout the day.”

Metabolic Sense

The research team did adjust their findings to account for variations in numerous dietary and lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol use, physical activity levels, energy intake, diet quality, and food insecurity – and still found a link between meal misses and cardiovascular events.

“Our results are significant even after adjustments for dietary and lifestyle factors (smoking, alcohol use, physical activity levels, energy intake, and diet quality) and food insecurity,” said the study’s senior investigator Wei Bao, MD, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, University of Iowa,. He noted, “Our findings are based on observations drawn from public data and do not imply causality. Nonetheless, what we observed makes metabolic sense.”

Our metabolism is affected when we miss a meal that we generally eat at set intervals. Lack of food leads to taking in more stored energy. This can cause an imbalance in our glucose levels and cause deterioration in the metabolic system.

According to estimates, 59 percent of men and some 63 percent of women in the US have three proper meals a day, . That’s a large chunk of the population potentially putting themselves at risk by missing out on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The global numbers would certainly be higher.

“Our research contributes much-needed evidence about the association between eating behaviours and mortality in the context of meal timing and duration of the daily prandial [meal] period,” said Bao.

“At a time when intermittent fasting is widely touted as a solution for weight loss, metabolic health, and disease prevention, our study is important for the large segment…”, cautioned the lead author Yangbo Sun.

This study stops short of finding an association between skipping meals and earlier death, but there is enough evidence to pursue further research.

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