Skipping breakfast doesn’t just increase your risk of obesity, but your chances of getting diabetes too. Dr Chen Zhen-Yu, a food and nutritional sciences expert, explains.
We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It fuels us up for the day ahead by giving our bodies the required nutrients, kickstarts our metabolism and helps us to concentrate better at work.
While a recent Herbalife Nutrition Asia Pacific Healthy Breakfast Survey showed that only seven per cent of its Singaporean respondents do not eat breakfast, it also revealed three main reasons why it’s still not a daily habit for some: lack of time, lack of feelings of hunger in the morning and the desire to lose weight. However, studies have shown that skipping breakfast could, in fact, lead to obesity, put your heart at risk, and even increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Dr Chen Zhen-Yu, Head of the Graduate Division of School of Life Sciences at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and a member of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board, explains how skipping breakfast puts us in danger of getting diabetes.
How does skipping breakfast increase the risk of diabetes?
Dr Chen: The question of why or how skipping breakfast increases the risk of diabetes is still a debate among the scientific researchers. What we believe is that skipping breakfast affects glucose metabolism and how sensitive our body is to insulin – the hormone which helps keep our blood sugar level balanced. During sleep, the body fasts, and the lack of food reduces the blood glucose level. To maintain a balanced blood glucose level, a process known as gluconeogenesis activates in our body, converting the amino acids (protein) into glucose. Over time, the body adapts and the efficiency of “burning” glucose for energy will be impaired, thus increasing the risk of diabetes.
Another explanation can be attributed to developing a resistance towards insulin. After sleeping for seven hours or so, our insulin levels drop to a low in the morning. By skipping breakfast and going straight into a big lunch or a big dinner, the blood insulin level spikes to a high. If one skips breakfast regularly, the fluctuation of insulin in the body will cause the body to become “less sensitive” to insulin, leading to a higher risk of diabetes.
What are some examples of unhealthy breakfast foods that we should avoid?
Dr Chen: Based on the Herbalife Nutrition Asia Pacific Healthy Breakfast Survey, around six in 10 Singaporeans consume a breakfast consisting of bread, toast or a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate in the morning. These breakfast options, while extremely common among Singaporeans, provide mainly carbohydrates and sugar, and very little protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals or fibre to support the body’s core functions. Regular consumption of such breakfast foods could increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
Can you share some healthy and nutritious breakfast ideas?
Dr Chen: According to the Herbalife Nutrition Philosophy, a daily balanced diet should comprise 40 per cent carbohydrates, 30 per cent protein and 30 per cent fats. A healthy breakfast should provide 15 per cent to 25 per cent of your daily calorie intake. For example, a balanced and nutritious breakfast may include one or two slices of bread (or other grains) for the healthy complex carbohydrates, a glass of milk and one egg for protein, essential fatty acids and minerals, as well as one serving of fruits and vegetables for the vitamins and dietary fibre. Having a balanced diet will certainly decrease the risk of diabetes and obesity.