Skipping meals can take years off your life, study finds - here's what to know

Skipping meals can take years off your life, study finds – here’s what to know

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Skipping meals can shorten lifespan, study findsArx0nt – Getty Images

  • A study has found that skipping meals may be linked to premature death.

  • Researchers have found that skipping breakfast is linked to an “increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease”.

  • A dietitian discusses the results and limitations of the study.

We’ve heard for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, it may actually be even bigger than previously thought, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticswho examined the effects of skipping meals and meal frequency in relation to mortality and heart health.

The study, which was published in August this year, investigated whether eating behaviors such as meal frequency, skipping meals and time between meals were associated with all-cause mortality and disease. cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The study involved 24,011 adults aged 40 or older who participated from 1999 to 2014. Researchers looked at various eating behaviors of participants who self-reported their eating habits every 24 hours. Causes of death were tracked through death records through December 31, 2015.

After examining participants over the years, the researchers found that certain eating behaviors were actually linked to higher rates of premature death. Eating only one meal a day was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease, while skipping breakfast was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality, and Skipping lunch or dinner was linked to an increased risk of all-cause mortality. Finally, the study found that having meals too close together (less than four and a half hours apart) was also linked to premature death from any cause.

The study noted that according to a US Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES), 40% of Americans skip meals and at least one in five between the ages of 20 and 74 skips breakfast or lunch, reiterating the importance of research.

So what does this mean for the average person? “Ultimately, what matters is that an individual can meet their nutritional needs for optimal health,” explains Keri Gans, RDNauthor The small change diet and podcast host of The Keri report. “If by eliminating meals they are missing important nutrients that their bodies need, it can harm their long-term health,” leading to “a higher risk of certain cancers and heart disease,” she says.

While the study certainly has its limitations, Gans says “breakfast is generally a good vehicle for nutrients associated with lower cardiovascular risk, such as fiber and vitamins C, E, and D.” For example: “Oatmeal made from milk, topped with strawberries and almonds, would be an ideal breakfast for heart protection. Other potential risks of skipping breakfast may include weight gain and osteoporosis, but research is not conclusive,” she warns.

The researchers noted similar possible reasons why skipping meals may lead to their findings, including unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits, overeating, and eating high-calorie meals.

Although this study was large and comprehensive in many ways, there are also many limitations. It was primarily based on a self-reported 24-hour dietary recall, “which is not always the best method of dietary assessment,” says Gans. “Participants may not accurately remember what they ate or report it honestly, which can lead to the risk of misinformation.” The researchers noted that it was impossible to consider the role of sleep in the relationship between diet and mortality, along with a host of other unmeasured factors (such as pre-existing conditions).

The bottom line is that while these findings about the relationships between meal skipping and mortality are important, there are many more factors that go into premature death. Consuming adequate nutrients, including those found in fruits and vegetables, is essential for maintaining overall health and mitigating the risk of life-threatening disease.

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