Potential Risks of Skipping Breakfast

We all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Getting the nutrients your body needs after an all night calorie deprivation from sleeping helps charge the brain and other vital organs to perform important metabolic tasks. Lately, intermittent fasting has grown in popularity due to its potential health benefits (lowering blood sugar and insulin levels, making the body burn more stored fat cells, heightened focus and attention, and, of course, weight loss). Different people choose different windows of time to avoid eating. However, a recent study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City shows that skipping breakfast may actually be detrimental to a very important function: fighting infections.

Lead author Dr. Filip Swirski, Director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Icahn Mount Sinai, says "There is a growing awareness that fasting is healthy, and there is indeed abundant evidence for the benefits of fasting. Our study provides a word of caution as it suggests that there may also be a cost to fasting that carries a health risk."

Specifically, Swirski and his colleagues studied the effects of long-term fasting on the immune system. Two groups of mice were analyzed. One group ate breakfast right after waking up and the other group had no breakfast. Blood samples were collected in both groups when the mice woke up, then four hours later, and then eight hours later. They observed a difference in the number of monocytes in both groups. Monocytes are a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow that are responsible for a number of different functions in the body. They can fight infections and, just as important, cause inflammation to the body during certain situations.

What the researchers saw was that the number of monocytes in the fasting group were significantly (90%) less after 4 hours and 8 hours whereas the number of monocytes in the group that ate breakfast was unchanged after 4 hours and 8 hours. When food was given to the fasting group at a much later time, the researchers drew more blood samples and noticed a significant increase in the number of monocytes. They discovered that these particular monocytes were altered leading to more inflammation and less resistance to fighting infections.

The early results show that while fasting is beneficial in a lot of respects, skipping breakfast may potentially harm your body's ability to fight off infections while also increasing inflammation. I tell my patients in our practice who are trying to lose weight that they should eat a normal sized breakfast and lunch and eat a lot less at dinner time, even skipping dinner altogether, since the body's energy requirements are minimal which can lead to gaining unhealthy weight more easily over time. So make sure to eat a healthy breakfast everyday!

Dr. Neil Sinha



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Potential Risks of Skipping Breakfast

Potential Risks of Skipping Breakfast Dr. Neil Sinha Source: More posts by: Dr. Neil