We’ve heard it time and time again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Still, many of us tend to skip this crucial step to starting the morning off right. But according to new research, the effects could be damaging to our health in more ways than we thought.
In a recent study, scientists at Ohio State University concluded that people who skipped breakfast missed out on key nutrients for the entire rest of their day. The research team analyzed data on more than 30,000 American adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collects health information on a sample of around 5,000 people each year through interviews, lab tests, and physical exams. According to their findings, skipping breakfast was linked to insufficient consumption of the vitamins and minerals most commonly found in breakfast foods.
Survey participants completed 24-hour dietary recalls detailing what they ate the previous day. “During the recall, participants self-designate their eating occasions as a meal or a snack, and they tell you at what point in time they ate whatever food they report,” said Stephanie Fanelli, one of the study authors. “That’s how we determined whether someone was a breakfast eater or a breakfast skipper.”
According to the data, about 15 percent of the study population, or 4,924 adults, reported skipping breakfast. The scientists then used the data to calculate total nutrient intake using the federal Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and daily dietary guidelines. Lastly, they compared those estimates to recommended nutrient intakes established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies.
Their analysis revealed that people who skipped breakfast had significantly lower amounts of key nutrients like folate, calcium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, and D. Lower consumption of fiber and minerals like magnesium were also found.
“We found those who skipped breakfast were significantly more likely not to meet the bottom threshold of what we hope to see people eat,” Fanelli said. Their findings indicated that breakfast skippers had an overall poorer diet quality compared to those who ate in the morning.”
And if this wasn’t bad enough, breakfast skippers were also found to be more likely to consume higher amounts of added sugars, carbohydrates, and fats during the day — a result of more snacking, the team suggests.
“Snacking is basically contributing a meal’s worth of calorie intakes for people who skipped breakfast,” said Christopher Taylor, senior author of the study. “People who ate breakfast ate more total calories than people who didn’t eat breakfast, but the lunch, dinner, and snacks were much larger for people who skipped breakfast, and tended to be of a lower diet quality.”
Nutrients That Slow Aging
Results from this study suggest that eating breakfast is an important habit to adopt for older adults. Whether you’re looking to extend your lifespan, live a higher quality of life, or lose a bit of extra weight, all of the nutrients mentioned in this study are absolutely crucial for healthy aging.
For example, the B group of vitamins, heavily emphasized in this study, are important for almost every bodily process. The body uses folate, also called vitamin B9, to produce red and white blood cells, convert carbohydrates into energy, and produce DNA and RNA. Low levels of folate have been linked to cardiovascular disease and complications, as well as other serious health conditions like depression and cancer.
Similarly, all tissues of the body need vitamin B1, or thiamine, to function properly, and it’s even been studied as a treatment option for age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s, cataracts, and kidney disease. Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is used to build red blood cells and helps us convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. And vitamin B3, or niacin, has been found to protect against cardiovascular issues, diabetes, arthritis, and even brain degeneration. It’s also involved in helping us maintain healthy function of our nervous and digestive systems.
Calcium, as you might already know, is crucial for building — and keeping — strong bones and teeth. In fact, low calcium intake has been linked to conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis. And since the body doesn’t produce calcium on its own, we have to get it through our diets!
Vitamin A and C are both required for healthy skin as we age. They’re involved in collagen synthesis and can help us ward off wrinkles and saggy skin. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that boosts the body’s immune system, helping to prevent infections and disease. Vitamin A plays a role in maintaining healthy eyes and good vision over time. Vitamin D also supports brain and immune health.
As this study points out, eating breakfast is especially important for older adults, as consuming the appropriate amount of nutrients is absolutely necessary for healthy aging. Changing this one habit could be the key to living the rest of your years feeling alive and well, so when you wake up tomorrow, fix yourself a plate!
Need some inspiration? Check out some of our favorite healthy breakfast ideas to get you started, here.