Changing The Timing Of One Meal Could Protect You Against Type 2 Diabetes

When you eat can matter just as much as what you eat.

Portrait of young man enjoying eating while working at home.
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When your mom said breakfast was the most important meal of the day, she wasn’t messing around. And, she was right, in ways she might not have anticipated. New research reveals not just eating breakfast, but eating an early breakfast too, might have a bigger health impact than we previously thought.

According to research recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, to reduce the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, it’s not just about what you eat, but also when you eat it. For the study, a French research team analyzed data collected from over 100,000 people to determine if meal timing and frequency had any impact on the presence or absence of 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," study author and ISGlobal researcher Anna Palomar-Cros said in a statement.

Participants were asked to complete an online food journal, logging what they ate and drank and when for three non-consecutive days. Researchers then monitored the participants' health for an average of seven additional years.

During the study period, 963 new cases of Type 2 diabetes were logged. The team found that those who habitually ate breakfast after 9 a.m. were 59% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who breakfasted before 8 a.m. Some increased risk was also associated with a late dinner after 10 p.m., and those who ate small frequent meals during the day were less likely than others to develop the condition.

This isn’t the only study purporting the benefits of breakfast. Recent research found that kids who eat breakfast have fewer emotional and behavioral problems than those who did not, and kids who ate breakfast at home before school had fewer behavioral problems than those who ate away from home.

Another study found that adults who skipped breakfast had less folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and D throughout the day than those who ate a healthy breakfast and were more likely to indulge in an unhealthy diet overall.

However, it’s important to remember that not all breakfasts are created equal. The value of a nutritious meal with healthy fats, lean proteins, and quality carbs far outweighs that of a bowl of sugary cereal or a toaster pastry.