Skipping Breakfast Can Double Your Chances of Heart Disease, Experts Say

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Mar 31, 2024

Is skipping breakfast really a shortcut to better health? A recent wave of intermittent fasting trends, backed by celebrities, suggests so. But a groundbreaking study from Shanghai Jiao Tong University paints a different picture.

According to Dr. Victor Zhong and his team, dodging the first meal of the day could significantly raise the risk of heart disease. With millions embracing this trendy diet, it’s time to dissect whether skipping breakfast is truly beneficial or a hidden hazard.

Celebrity Diets and Real Risks

Celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Aniston swear by intermittent fasting (via The Sun).  It is a global trend. This diet restricts eating to an eight-hour window, supposedly offering weight loss and metabolic boosts.

Table full of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and beans

Source: Freepik

However, Chinese researchers have linked this eating pattern with a startling 91% increase in cardiovascular disease risk (via American Heart Association). This revelation asks us to reconsider: Are the health costs worth the celebrity-endorsed benefits?

Surprising Study Results

Dr. Victor Zhong’s study reveals shocking insights: those following an eight-hour eating window were 91% more likely to suffer from heart disease deaths compared to those who spread their meals across 12 to 16 hours.

A scientist wearing blue gloves and protective glasses looking at a blood sample in a vial.

Source: National Eye Institute/Wikimedia Commons

“We were surprised to find that time-restricted eating was more likely to die from heart disease,” stated Dr. Zhong (via American Heart Association). This significant finding challenges the safety of one of the trendiest diet regimes today.

Understanding Heart Health

In the U.K., around 7.6 million people live with heart or circulatory diseases (via British Heart Foundation). Meanwhile, 121.5 million adults in the U.S. are affected (via American Heart Association), highlighting the critical nature of heart health.

This image displays a detailed anatomical model of a human heart, held upright on a stand

Source: Jesse Orrico/Unsplash

The stark warning from Dr. Zhong’s study comes at a crucial time, suggesting that our eating patterns could be directly influencing our heart health.

The Science Behind Fasting

Intermittent fasting has been lauded for its ability to improve markers like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Initially, these changes suggest a healthier lifestyle (via Hopkins Medicine).

Person standing on a digital scale

Source: Freepik

But it’s essential to distinguish short-term improvements from long-term health impacts. As the Chinese study suggests, what works in the short term may not hold the same benefits in the long run, especially concerning heart health.

Long-Term Concerns

The long-term impacts of intermittent fasting on heart health are now under the microscope. The study conducted over eight years involving more than 20,000 adults paints a concerning picture for those restricting their eating to eight hours daily.

A detailed anatomical model of a human heart with labeled parts is placed against a grey background

Source: Robina Weermeijer/Unsplash

This group faced nearly double the risk of heart disease-related deaths than those with less restrictive eating schedules, challenging previous assumptions about fasting’s benefits.


The Counterargument

Critics, like Dr. Duane Mellor from Aston University, urge caution, suggesting that factors like poverty or work stress might drive restricted eating times, also known to heighten heart disease risk.

Against a white background, coffee beans are spread out to form a heart and a pulse signal, while some coffee beans are in a white mug in the middle of the heart.

Source: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

“We need to be very careful not to generate concerning headlines based on such limited information,” says Mellor (via CNN). This perspective invites a broader view of the study’s implications, emphasizing the need for a more nuanced approach to diet assessment.


Lifestyle vs. Diet Timing

Dr. Mellor’s comments underscore the importance of looking beyond just eating windows. Lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep quality, tobacco use, and overall dietary content play a significant role in heart health.

A woman runs at sunset while wearing a baseball cap

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

This broader approach suggests that while timing matters, the quality of food and life stressors can significantly impact heart health, pointing to the complexity of dietary impacts.


Safe Weight Loss Practices

Amid the fasting fad, the advice for safe weight loss includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and gradual weight reduction.

Overweight person standing on a scale in a bathroom

Source: Freepik

By focusing on long-term lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes, individuals can achieve sustainable health improvements without the risks associated with severe dietary restrictions.


Personal Stories

Anecdotal evidence from those who’ve tried intermittent fasting offers varied outcomes. A quick internet search will reveal some reporting positive changes, while others face challenges or health concerns.

Table with the various food groups, including meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables, and carbohydrates

Source: Freepik

These personal experiences show the individual nature of dieting and health, reinforcing the need for personalized medical advice before embarking on significant dietary changes.


Consult Your Doctor

Before diving into trends like intermittent fasting, consulting with a health care provider is crucial.

Doctor holding a red plastic heart over his chest

Source: Freepik

Especially for those with existing health issues or concerns about heart disease, professional guidance can help navigate the risks and benefits of dietary changes, ensuring that health remains a priority.


Final Thoughts

The debate over skipping breakfast and its link to heart disease is about more than meal timing—it’s about understanding and balancing our body’s needs.

A heart beat on an orange background, What Your Heart Rate Reveals About Your Health

Source: PickPik

While intermittent fasting may offer benefits for some, it’s clear that it comes with risks, particularly concerning heart health.