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8 really bad things that happen to your body when you skip breakfast

22nd May 2016

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The general advice has always been to “eat your breakfast”.

But given how early morning scramble seems to be the norm, most of us generally end up skipping what is probably the most important meal of the day. By mid morning we are “hangry” and desperate for a quick snack.

But why is the first meal of the day so important? Experts weigh in on the things that happen to your body when you skip breakfast…

1. Your metabolism slows down

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One of the important things about staying healthy is your body’s ability to digest food. And when your body isn’t fed properly, it will compensate by slowing everything down – including metabolism.

“Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns off calories in order to function,” says Dr Jane Leonard, GP at The Third Space Gym in central London. “Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can cause your metabolism to slow down. “In the long term, this can actually lead to weight gain as your body learns to store calories because the supply is slowed down.”

2. You compromise on oral hygiene

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You’d think not eating food would protect your teeth in some way, but experts beg to differ.

“Breakfast plays an important role in stimulating the salivary glands,” says Dr Luke Thorley, dentist and ambassador for CB12. “Saliva washes away bacteria from your tongue and teeth and is key to maintain good oral hygiene.

“A reduction in saliva increases a person’s susceptibility to dental diseases such as decay and gum disease, as bacteria remains in the mouth.

“Skipping breakfast also has a big impact on your breath – a recent study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene found that participants who skipped breakfast were almost twice as likely to suffer from halitosis (bad breath).”

3. Your blood sugar levels drop

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“Our blood sugar levels are already decreased when we wake in the morning as we haven’t eaten since dinner time the day before,” says Primrose Matheson, founder of Primrose’s Kitchen. “Therefore, when we skip breakfast our body doesn’t take in the important calories it needs to convert into energy and we begin to feel lethargic and our concentration decreases.

“In a desperate attempt to get energy and improve our mood we reach for quick glucose release foods like chocolate and muffins which cause a dramatic increase in blood sugar. These choices often lead to a tendency for weight gain and over time will have a detrimental effect on the adrenals.

“By eating a wholesome balance of protein and carbohydrates you can maintain a healthy blood sugar/energy level.”

4. You lose focus

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“When we leave for work in the morning or go out to do our daily tasks, breakfast gives us a steady release of energy,” says Luke Thornton, health and wellbeing advisor to Discount Supplements.

“Without breakfast, chances are we’ll get a ‘mid-morning slump’ which makes it hard to focus.

“If you’re at work and this happens time and time again, it can lead to significant productivity losses over time.

“Low energy may lead to excessive caffeine consumption. The solution is to eat a well balanced, substantial breakfast and enjoy your steady energy levels until lunch!”

5. You feel irritable

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“When you regularly skip breakfast you are likely to easily become fatigued and irritable during the day,” adds nutritionist Julie Montagu. “This is because when you eat in the morning you are restoring your glycogen and balancing your insulin levels.

“When you don’t do this, your blood sugar will become low and the negative side effects will begin.”

6. You gain weight

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Skipping breakfast in the morning will make you significantly hungrier throughout the day, and chances are, you will inadvertently snack more to compensate.

“Many people believe that skipping breakfast will help them cut a few calories and thus lose weight,” says Frida Harju, in-house nutritionist at health and fitness app Lifesum. “However, missing breakfast will actually have the opposite effect, taking much longer to digest the food you consume over lunch or dinner.”

Harju also points out the foods that you eat for breakfast – provided they are healthy and balanced – could also affect how well your body tackles the more indulgent snacks later in the day.

“For example, if you have quinoa and whole grain bread for breakfast, it will become easier for your body to digest any chocolate that you snack on later in the day,” says Harju.

7. Your brain can’t function

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Your brain needs a constant supply of energy to maintain its function. By depriving your body of breakfast, your brain misses the nutrients and energy supply it needs to work at an optimum level. This can lead to reduced performance. “Numerous studies conducted with children, teenagers and adults found that eating a healthy and filling breakfast helps improve short-term memory and cognitive function,” says Harju. “Choosing to skip breakfast in the morning will make it more difficult to recall information and will prevent you from concentrating, which is counter-productive if you are working or studying.”

8. You are prone to disease

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By missing breakfast, your body is deprived of a meal that provides you with essential nutrients such as zinc, fibre, iron, calcium, vitamins A and C and riboflavin.

These nutrients are needed for health and wellbeing and also to help prevent the development of chronic diseases.

“Eating several balanced meals a day, including breakfast, helps your body keep the insulin levels low, which in turn helps your body burn more fat, as insulin is a hormone that helps your body store fat,” says Harju.

“As mentioned previously, when we skip breakfast, it tends to make us eat larger portions, which in turn increases levels of insulin and which can then cause insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.”

So here’s what you should be doing

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Eating breakfast doesn’t mean scoffing down a bowl of cereal or downing a slice of toast. As personal trainer Chris Walton points out, the typical western breakfast doesn’t quite meet the healthy standard.

“When we look into our nutritional requirements we can see that this sort of breakfast doesn’t meet our needs,” says Walton, director of personal training at Embody Fitness. “What we need is a balance of proteins, healthy fats, and some carbs.

“Some ‘high protein’ breakfast options are, unfortunately, anything but. For instance, protein content in porridge is higher than rice crisps but not in the same ball park as salmon and eggs.

“Proteins and fats will help keep blood sugars level and are also the ‘building blocks’ for many neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages from the brain for everything we do). This is important because roughly 60% of neurotransmitters are produced in the gut – from what we feed ourselves.”

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