Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals

Study Questions:

Is eating breakfast or not associated with risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) among men residing in the United States?


Data for this analysis were from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an ongoing prospective study of male health professionals. Approximately 97% of participants were of white European descent. Eating habits, including breakfast eating, were assessed in 1992 in 26,902 American men, ages 45-82 years, who were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Participants were followed through mailed biennial questionnaires that ascertained medical history, lifestyle, and health-related behaviors. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate relative risks and 95% confidence intervals for CHD, adjusted for demographic, diet, lifestyle, and other CHD risk factors.


Participants who did not report eating breakfast were younger than those who did, and were more likely to be smokers, to work full-time, to be unmarried, to be less physically active, and to drink more alcohol. Men who reported that they ate late at night were more likely to smoke, to sleep <7 hours a night, or to have baseline hypertension compared with men who did not eat late at night. The late-night eating abstainers were more likely to be married and to work full-time, and ate on average one time less per day than the late-night eaters. The mean diet quality of the participants was high among participants, regardless of their breakfast or late-night eating status. During 16 years of follow-up, 1,527 incident CHD cases were diagnosed. Men who skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of CHD compared with men who did not (relative risk, 1.27; 95% confidence interval, 1.06-1.53). Compared with men who did not eat late at night, those who ate late at night had a 55% higher CHD risk (relative risk, 1.55; 95% confidence interval, 1.05-2.29). These associations were mediated by body mass index, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes mellitus. No association was observed between eating frequency (times per day) and risk of CHD.


The investigators concluded that eating breakfast was associated with significantly lower CHD risk in this cohort of male health professionals.


These data suggest that time of meals is associated with other lifestyle behaviors. Adjustment for body mass index, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes resulted in the relationship between breakfast (and late-night meals), and CHD was no longer significant. Physicians may use this information to assist in the identification of those who may be at risk and need to improve lifestyle habits. However, it is unlikely that eating breakfast by itself would confer significant protection against heart disease.

Clinical Topics: Dyslipidemia, Prevention, Atherosclerotic Disease (CAD/PAD), Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolemia, Diet, Hypertension

Keywords: Coronary Artery Disease, Neoplasms, Follow-Up Studies, Risk Factors, Lewis Blood-Group System, Hypercholesterolemia, Marriage, Body Mass Index, Smoke, Single Person, Cardiovascular Diseases, Genotype, Breakfast, Diet, Hypertension, United States, Diabetes Mellitus

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