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If you’re following an intermittent fasting plan, you may wonder if you should skip breakfast and push your eating window to later in the day. But there are a lot of good arguments for eating your first meal of the day early.
A healthy breakfast that’s low in carbohydrates and sugar can give you that energy boost you need to get moving and keep going throughout the day. Eating early in the day can also help stave off late-day hunger and snacking.
Not skipping meals like breakfast can help keep your immune system humming. And research indicates breakfast plays a key role in managing blood sugar…
An early breakfast could protect against diabetes
A previous study shows that if you have type 2 diabetes and you skip breakfast, you can harmfully alter your body’s blood sugar levels throughout the rest of the day.
That’s compelling enough. But one team of researchers has dug even deeper to explore how the timing of breakfast can influence the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“We know that meal timing plays a key role in regulating circadian rhythms and glucose and lipid control, but few studies have investigated the relationship between meal timing or fasting and type 2 diabetes,” says Anna Palomar-Cros, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) researcher and first author of the study.
In this study, more than 100,000 adults from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort filled in online dietary records of what they ate and drank over a 24-hour period on 3 non-consecutive days. They also recorded the timing of their meals. After averaging the dietary records for the first 2 years of follow-up, the researchers monitored the participants’ health over an average of 7 years.
What they discovered was incredible…
The risk of developing diabetes was 59 percent higher in the group of people who regularly ate breakfast after 9 a.m. compared with those who ate breakfast before 8 a.m.
“Biologically, this makes sense, as skipping breakfast is known to affect glucose and lipid control, as well as insulin levels,” Palomar-Cros says.
She adds the results are consistent with two meta-analyses concluding that skipping breakfast increases type 2 diabetes risk.
That’s not all the research team discovered: having dinner after 10 p.m. increased diabetes risk as well while eating about five times a day was linked with lower disease incidence.
“Our results suggest that a first meal before 8 a.m. and a last meal before 7 p.m. may help reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes,” says Manolis Kogevinas, ISGlobal researcher and co-author of the study.
Shifting your rhythm
These study results point to the growing importance of chrononutrition, the field of study that explores the association between diet, circadian rhythms and health to prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. Experts are starting to discover that the body may process certain foods differently depending on when in the day you consume them.
But what if you’re one of those night owls who can’t seem to rise before 8 a.m., let alone eat breakfast then?
Luckily, there are ways you can change your circadian rhythm to allow for healthier sleeping and eating patterns:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. If you want to wake up at 7 a.m., for instance, make sure you wake up at that time every day to help reset your circadian rhythm. Even if you have trouble going to sleep when you want, make sure you set an alarm for your desired wake-up time to help your body readjust.
- Try a lightbox or sunrise simulator. Using one of these devices immediately upon waking, especially during the darker winter months, can help signal your brain and body that it’s time to start the day.
- Use melatonin. Taking a melatonin supplement a few hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep at the time you want and stay asleep until morning.
- Get some exercise (but not too close to bedtime). Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and duration. Just don’t exercise within 1 to 2 hours of your bedtime or it may have the opposite effect.
- Consume caffeine wisely. Having coffee within the first few hours of waking is okay. In fact, the researchers discovered that people who drank two to three cups of filtered coffee a day had a whopping 60 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who drank less than one cup of filtered coffee a day. However, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything with caffeine within 5 to 7 hours of bedtime.
- Eat breakfast right away. If you eat breakfast right after you get up, you’ll be more likely to do it before 8 a.m. Even if you need a little bit of time to wake up first, as long as you keep the 8 a.m. cutoff in mind, you should be fine.
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Associations of meal timing, number of eating occasions and night-time fasting duration with incidence of type 2 diabetes in the NutriNet-Santé cohort — International Journal of Epidemiology
Can You Change Your Circadian Rhythm? — Sleep Foundation