Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 17.7 million people each year, accounting for 31 percent of all global deaths. Atherosclerosis, the underlying and leading cause of cardiovascular disease, is a universal problem, resulting in a high rate of mortality.

Atherosclerosis, which can lead to serious and long-lasting complications, begins in youth with fatty streaks and clinically-significant raised lesions, increasing rapidly in prevalence and extent during the 15- to 34-year-old age span. And a recent study shows it all starts with breakfast.

Previously, a 2015 study focused on the essential role of nutrients and how lifestyle changes, such as diet, play a major role in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. The research focused on the effect of specific foods, nutrients and bioactive compounds and recommended some dietary foods, nutrients and bioactive compounds to support the complementary clinical management of patients with atherosclerosis.

It is important to establish that the first strategy to treat atherosclerosis is to modify lifestyle habits, focusing on the beneficial properties of specific nutrients.

Although the literature includes the importance of a nutritious daily diet that avoids foods contributing to arterial plaques, new research indicates that meal time is also critical — especially breakfast. The study suggests that those who skip breakfast not only lead less healthy lifestyles but also may have an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

Researchers in Madrid examined male and female volunteers who were free from cardiovascular or chronic kidney disease. Three patterns of breakfast consumption were studied:

  • high-energy breakfast, when contributing to more than 20 percent of total daily energy intake (27 percent of the population)
  • low-energy breakfast, when contributing between 5 percent and 20 percent of total daily energy intake (70 percent of the population)
  • skipping breakfast, when consuming less than 5 percent of total daily energy (3 percent of the population)

Of the 4,052 participants, 2.9 percent skipped breakfast, 69.4 percent were low-energy breakfast consumers, and 27.7 percent were breakfast consumers.

Independent of the presence of traditional and dietary cardiovascular risk factors, habitual breakfast skipping was associated with a higher prevalence of noncoronary and generalized atherosclerosis, compared to high-energy breakfast. Participants who skipped breakfast had the greatest waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood lipids and fasting glucose levels.

Market research shows that 1 in 10 U.S. consumers or 31 million skip breakfast, with males 18 to 34 years having the highest incidence of skipping (28 percent). According to study author Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., MACC director of Mount Sinai Heart and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study shows that skipping breakfast is one bad habit that people can change to reduce their risk for heart disease.