Getting Off to a Good Start with Breakfast: Part 1

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Do you eat breakfast? If you don’t, you’re not alone. A poll done a couple of years ago by ABC News revealed that four out of ten people don’t eat breakfast. Not surprisingly, older adults and seniors are more likely to eat breakfast than younger adults, mostly because of time; according to this poll, only 53% of adults ages 18 to 34 eat breakfast, whereas about 83% of people over the age of 65 eat breakfast regularly.

It’s not uncommon for dietitians to hear patients say, “If I eat breakfast, I’m hungry all day.” Likewise, many people skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight. Some people with diabetes don’t eat breakfast because they wake up with high blood glucose readings in the morning. What are your reasons for not eating breakfast?

I probably don’t have to tell you that breakfast is one of the more important—if not the most important—meals of the day. Even the name “breakfast” implies that you’re breaking the long overnight fast with a nourishing meal to help you face the day. Why is eating breakfast such a big deal? Well, research shows that people who do eat breakfast are more likely to:

  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • Have better strength and endurance
  • Have lower blood cholesterol levels
  • Eat more nutritiously during the rest of the day
  • Focus and be more productive during the day

In fact, data from the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing study of over 5,000 people who have lost weight and maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for one year or more, shows that one key factor for these people’s success is that almost all eat breakfast. One theory is that eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism, helping your body start burning food for fuel.

Eating breakfast may also lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 35% to 50%, according to some studies. Why? People who are at risk for diabetes tend to have what we call insulin resistance syndrome (or metabolic syndrome), a combination of high insulin and glucose levels in the blood, high blood pressure, abnormal blood lipids (such as cholesterol and triglycerides), and too much abdominal fat. This combination of factors paves the way for diabetes. The majority of people who have insulin resistance syndrome tend to be overweight and therefore often skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight, setting themselves up for overeating later in the day or at night and making not-so-healthy food choices.

What if you already have diabetes? Well, eating breakfast won’t make your diabetes go away, of course, but it’s still important to eat something in the morning. If you typically forgo breakfast because your fasting glucose levels are high in the morning, it’s time to take stock of the situation and address the real issue of why they’re high. Typical reasons include: eating too much after supper (probably because you don’t eat breakfast!) or not enough diabetes medicine, whether you take pills or insulin.

Insulin users commonly take basal, or long-acting, insulin at bedtime, whether that’s glargine (brand name Lantus), detemir (Levemir), or NPH. High fasting blood glucose readings in the morning can indicate that the basal dose may not be high enough. Likewise, people who take diabetes pills may need a higher dose. If you suspect that this is the case, talk to your physician or diabetes educator. Bring a log of your blood glucose readings as well as a record of your food intake. Work on getting your fasting readings off to a good start, which will make it easier to control your blood glucose for the rest of the day. And because your body needs fuel to jump-start the day, you can then start eating breakfast without fear that your blood glucose levels will go sky-high.

Some people just aren’t hungry first thing in the morning. That’s understandable, but still not a good enough excuse to run on empty until lunchtime. Wait two to three hours after waking and then eat something, even if you have to bring it to work or school with you. This applies to folks who are running late in the morning—pack something the night before or stash some breakfast bars in your car, purse, or briefcase for a breakfast on the go.

Next week: breakfast ideas!

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