Having a family history of diabetes, being overweight or obese, and lack of physical activity all figure into type 2 diabetes risk. Now we can add eating patterns—how many times per day a person eats, snacking habits, and eating breakfast—as something to address to lower our own diabetes risk.
Break the fast, diminish diabetes
To study connections between eating patterns and type 2 diabetes, researchers collected information on diet and health habits from 29,206 men. The group, with an average age of 58 years, was followed for 16 years to determine who developed diabetes. After adjusting for other things that can affect risk—body mass index, other dietary habits, smoking, and exercise—the researchers found that:
men who regularly skipped breakfast were 21% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with men who ate breakfast,
men who ate one to two times per day had 25% higher risk of developing diabetes compared with men who ate three times daily, however,
men who skipped breakfast and ate one to three times daily had a higher type 2 diabetes risk than men who ate breakfast and ate one to three times per day, and
additional daily snacking beyond three main meals was associated with higher diabetes risk, but only in overweight and obese men.
Breakfast and beyond
Skipping breakfast seems to increase type 2 diabetes risk, regardless of how many times a person eats each day. As well, skipping breakfast may set us up for eating just once or twice daily, another habit that may contribute to higher diabetes risk. Lots of snacking may be a problem too, but only if you’re carrying excess weight. Note that this study is observational, meaning it cannot prove cause and effect. Still, it appears that breakfast has an important role to play in keeping us healthy.
Make eating easy
Try our breakfast tips to find the path to your best health:
Make it snappy. Many folks feel there’s no time for breakfast, but a little preparation goes a long way. Keep a few peeled, hardboiled eggs on hand. Prep them the night before, while you’re making dinner, and then grab a couple fast as you’re running out the door on the way to work or school.
Be a smooth operator. In the evening, place a banana, a few frozen berries, and a scoop of vanilla or plain protein powder in your blender container; store in the fridge. In the morning, add milk, soymilk, or another liquid and blend. Pour into your to-go container, and leave the water-filled blender container in the sink. Clean up later is a breeze, because it’s been soaking all day.
Go Greek. Greek yogurt makes a quick and convenient morning meal. It’s loaded with protein and takes no preparation time. Pair it with an apple or banana for extra oomph.
Choose wisely. Anything is likely better than nothing when it comes to breakfast, but do your best to make smart choices. Try a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit rather than a donut.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:1182–9)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.