Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

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.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner