Heart DiseasePreventive Medicine


It used to be said, breakfast is the “most important meal of the day.” “They” said eating a good breakfast starts your day right and gives you the fuel to tackle all the challenges of a long work day. Well, is that true? Or is this a clever marketing program to sell more corn flakes or oatmeal? These were questions I asked myself frequently because I wasn’t sure. For many years I skipped breakfast and only had a cup, or two, of coffee at the hospital. The only thing I ate might be donuts shared by the “good neighbor” State Farm agent next to my office.

Now, we know the answers! A study reported last year showed conclusively that breakfast eaters overall had lower cardiovascular mortality and lower overall mortality from any cause. But there is a caveat; what you eat makes a difference. Unfortunately for fast food restaurants, it’s not Egg McMuffins or Breakfast Croissants.

This study used data from 5761 participants chosen at random. 83% were breakfast eaters. The average age was 57.5 for eaters and 53.0 for non-eaters. The analysis of the information showed that regular breakfast eaters had lower body mass index readings, ate more calories, and consumed more fiber in their diets than non-breakfast eaters. The major finding, however, was that breakfast eaters had a 21% reduction in cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. That means that those who eat a breakfast high in fiber, not fat (sorry, McDonald’s and Burger King), have a statistically significant reduction in their chance of death from cardiovascular disease. 

A breakfast high in fiber, comprised of cereal, oatmeal, fruit, and bran-containing foods, is the answer. A total of 25 grams of fiber per day (not just at breakfast) are required to achieve this impressive benefit. Emphasis is placed on breakfast because potentially more fiber is consumed at breakfast than at any other meal. Of course, other factors such as co-morbidities (high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity) play a role, but breakfast eaters overall were more likely to exercise and avoid tobacco products.

In conclusion, adults who eat a breakfast high in fiber-containing foods are 21% less likely to die of a cardiovascular event, or any other major cause of death, than those who skip breakfast or consume a breakfast high in fat. It’s not so much whether you eat breakfast or not but rather the type and amount of foods you eat. The health benefit of fiber has been touted for years, and this study just substantiates its reputation. Kellogg’s and General Mills are shouting “hallelujah!”

Reference: King DE, Xiang J. A Relationship Between Mortality and Eating Breakfast and Fiber.

JABFM 2021 July-August;34(4):678-686.

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