In the past 40 years, the eating habits of city dwellers have seen dramatic changes.
According to the latest issue of Circulation, the American Heart Association’s principal scientific journal, main meals accounted for only 70 percent of the daily calorie intake by the general public. In contrast, calorie input from snacks were up to 20 percent from 10 percent.
In other words, snacks have been replacing main meals as a source of energy. However, snacks would give rise to cardiovascular diseases due to their high salt and trans fat content.
On the other hand, whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day is becoming controversial.
Breakfast is a meal taken within two hours of waking and no later than 10 a.m., giving about 20-30 percent of the total daily energy input.
There are an increasing number of people — about 20-30 percent of the population in the United States — not taking breakfast. They are mostly young people, smokers, diners who have late supper, drinkers and people who do not do exercise.
It is a popular misunderstanding that skipping breakfast could speed up weight loss. Research results have shown that individuals who skip breakfast would have weight gain.
According to a control experiment on weight loss, where obese participants were assigned to a breakfast group and no breakfast group in a weight loss program for 12 weeks, the former lost 7.7 kilograms while the latter shed an average of 6kg.
Apart from slower weight loss, breakfast skippers would also have a higher chance of developing obesity and diabetes, ranging from 20 percent to 70 percent. The exact reason for the higher risks is unknown but probably having no breakfast might have an effect on the secretion of insulin.
What is more alarming is that they would have 27 percent higher chance of experiencing heart attack, a 16-year study found.
The risk for breakfast skippers to develop hemorrhagic stroke would be 18 percent higher, according to a study from Japan.
In short, skipping breakfast does not facilitate weight loss but could pose various undesirable health risks.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 14.
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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