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Diabetes Health Center

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Eat Breakfast, Cut Diabetes Risk

Making Breakfast a Habit May Cut the Odds of Diabetes, Obesity
WebMD Health News

June 14, 2012 (Philadelphia) -- Your mom was right, again. Don't skip breakfast!

A new study shows that people who eat breakfast every day are less likely to become obese, develop type 2 diabetes, or gain fat around their tummy.

Even having breakfast just four to six times a week may help, says researcher Andrew Odegaard, PhD, MPH, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

That's sensible advice, although it doesn't prove that breakfast made the difference, says Robert E. Ratner, MD, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association.

"Having regular eating habits with three balanced meals is probably better than random eating, which may lead to weight gain and dangerously high or low blood sugar," Ratner tells WebMD. "But scientifically, the study does not offer proof," Ratner says. People who eat breakfast daily are likely to have other healthy habits that could also explain the association, he says.

Ratner was not involved with the study, presented here at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association.

Breakfast and Diabetes Study

The study included more than 5,000 men and women. None had type 2 diabetes when they entered the study.

Seven years into the study, they filled out diet questionnaires that included a question asking how many times a week they ate breakfast. They were followed for an average of 18 years.

People who ate breakfast daily fared best. Compared to people who ate breakfast three or fewer times per week, they were:

  • 34% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • 43% less likely to become obese
  • 40% less likely to develop fat around the tummy (abdominal obesity)

People who ate breakfast at least four to six times per week also did well. Compared to people who ate breakfast no more than three times per week, they were:

  • 24% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • 25% less likely to become obese

The findings considered other risk factors for obesity and diabetes, including age, sex, race, drinking, smoking, physical activity, daily calories, and how many times a week people ate fast food.

No particular breakfast stood out as the best. "The findings [held true] regardless of what they ate for breakfast," Odegaard tells WebMD. Still, what you eat for breakfast clearly impacts risk of these disorders, he and Ratner say.

The American Diabetes Association recommends a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nonfat dairy products, beans, lean meats, poultry, and fish.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary, as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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