Ladies … new study shows abnormal stress hormone rhythm in breakfast skippers!

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We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and yet over 30 million American adults are breakfast skippers !  In younger adults (between the ages of 18 and 34), 28% of men and 18% of women regularly skip breakfast.  That number drops between 35 and 54 years old to 18% of men and 13% of women, and, after 55, the number falls again to about 10%.

In my previous post “Don’t make a habit of skipping breakfast!” , we looked at a study from Baylor School of Medicine that showed that eating breakfast decreased our risk of becoming overweight or obese, and also of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

A new study was just published from researchers at the University of California – Davis that looked at the effect on women of chronically skipping breakfast, specifically related to stress hormones. I’ll go over the results of the study in a moment, but first, a few words about stress hormones.

….The major stress hormone that we measure is Cortisol.  We look at its production, its ebb and flow, its blood levels.  Cortisol is produced by our adrenal glands (we have 2 of them) in response to signals that come from our brain through the HPA Axis (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis).  It is all very complicated.  For us, here, just know that levels that are too high or too low or that spike at the “wrong time” can lead to health problems….

OK, back to the new study .  It included only women, between the ages or 18 and 45.  Some were normal weight, some overweight and some obese.  Some were regular breakfast eaters and some were skippers.  Cortisol levels were measured at different times during the day.  The breakfast skippers showed higher cortisol levels during the rest of the day and abnormal ebb and flow.  This was not found in the breakfast eaters.  The study also found that the breakfast skippers had higher blood pressure which could be a component for the development of heart disease.  To quote the researchers: “Habitually skipping breakfast is associated with stress-independent overactivity in the HPA axis which, if prolonged, may increase risk for cardiometabolic disease.”

What does that mean for us?  And “us” includes the men too.  Well, there are many stresses in our lives that put a strain on our HPA Axis.  Cortisol has a powerful and diverse effect on our health.  We may not be able to control all the stresses but we can make a simple choice that has definite benefits.  Let’s eat breakfast!  It really may be “the most important meal of the day” …

Additional Resources:
Why we should eat protein at breakfast!

Cortisol: Why “The Stress Hormone” is Public Enemy #1

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