In the hustle and bustle of modern existence, it can be all too easy to skip a meal or two. You might even do it deliberately. Skipping one of three standard meals a day could have a serious downside, a new study suggests.
In a study of 24,011 American adults over the age of 40, just one meal a day was linked to a higher risk of death overall. Skipping breakfast was associated with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD), while skipping lunch or dinner was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, including an increased risk of CVD.
There was even a problem for those who ate all three meals but had them too close together. Eating two adjacent meals less than 4.5 hours apart has also been shown to be linked to an increased risk of death from any cause.
While the study seems to complicate messages that suggest intermittent fasting might be good for you, the data underscores the importance of regular fueling stops for the body.
“Our research found that people who ate only one meal a day were more likely to die than those who ate more meals a day,” says epidemiologist Yangbo Sun from the University of Tennessee.
“Based on these results, we recommend eating at least two to three meals spread throughout the day.”
About 30% of study participants regularly ate fewer than three meals a day. According to the data, those who were younger, male, non-Hispanic black, less educated and with lower household income were more likely to skip meals.
Meal skipping was also more common among those who smoked more, drank more alcohol, were more food insecure, ate less nutritious foods, ate more snacks, and consumed less energy overall.
This study is not comprehensive enough to determine whether skipping meals actually causes earlier death, only that there is an association worth investigating. It is possible that other factors are involved, affecting both dietary habits and mortality risk.
That said, the research team adjusted their findings to account for variations in many diet and lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity levels, energy intake, diet quality and food insecurity – and the link was still there.
“Our findings are based on observations drawn from public data and do not imply causation,” says epidemiologist Wei Bao from the University of Iowa. “Nevertheless, what we observed makes metabolic sense.”
This “metabolic sense” refers to how skipping meals at particular intervals generally leads to taking in more energy at a time. This can lead to imbalances in the way our body regulates glucose and lead to deterioration of the metabolic system.
Recent statistics suggest that some 59% of men and some 63% of women in the United States eat three good meals a day. It is a large part of the population that is potentially putting themselves at risk by missing breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Of course, there are all sorts of reasons for this – working hours, time constraints, poverty, different diets and approaches to fasting – but the team behind the study hope this will encourage further analysis. the importance of a regular diet.
“Our research provides much-needed evidence on the association between eating behaviors and mortality in the context of mealtime and daily prandial duration. [meal] period,” Bao says.
The research was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.