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Physiol Behav. 2015 Mar 1;140:215-21. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.12.044. Epub 2014 Dec 27.

Female breakfast skippers display a disrupted cortisol rhythm and elevated blood pressure.

Author information

1
Department of Nutrition, 1 Shields Ave., University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
2
Department of Nutrition, 1 Shields Ave., University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
3
Tahoe Forest Hospital, 10121 Pine Ave, Truckee, CA 96161, USA.
4
Department of Nutrition, 1 Shields Ave., University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Obesity and Metabolism Research Unit, Davis, CA 95616, USA. Electronic address: kevin.laugero@ars.usda.gov.

Abstract

Chronic stress and over-activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis may link breakfast skipping and poor cardiometabolic health. Missing the first major meal of the day in rodents prolongs elevated circulating corticosterone at a time when it's normally decreasing. To extend these findings to humans, we hypothesized that habitual breakfast skippers would display a similar pattern of circulating cortisol and alterations in meal and stress-induced cortisol reactions. Normal weight to obese women aged 18-45 years old who were strictly defined as either breakfast skippers (n=30) or breakfast eaters (n=35) were invited to participate in our study. Normal breakfast habits were maintained for the entire study period and each participant attended 4 lab visits. Over the first 2 lab visits, body composition, fasting clinical chemistries, and self-reports of chronic stress were assessed. On each of 2 additional days (lab visits 3 and 4), salivary free cortisol was measured at home upon waking and at bedtime, and in the lab in response to a standard lunch, ad libitum afternoon snack buffet, and stress and control (relaxation) tasks. The order of the control and stress test visits was randomized. While body weight, body composition, HOMA-IR, total and HDL cholesterol did not statistically differ (p>0.05), both diastolic and systolic blood pressure was elevated (p<0.01) and LDL cholesterol was lower (p=0.04) in the breakfast skipper group. Compared to the breakfast eaters and on the control task visit only, breakfast skippers had higher circulating cortisol from arrival to midafternoon (p<0.01) and during the snack buffet (p<0.05). Furthermore, the lunch-induced cortisol reaction was larger in the 'skippers' (p=0.03). On both stress and control visit days, the diurnal cortisol amplitude was significantly (p=0.02) blunted in breakfast skippers. Self-reports of chronic stress did not differ between the groups. These data indicate that habitually skipping breakfast is associated with stress-independent over-activity in the HPA axis which, if prolonged, may increase risk (e.g., hypertension) for cardiometabolic disease in some people.

KEYWORDS:

Blood pressure; Breakfast skipping; Cardiometabolic health; Cortisol

PMID:
25545767
DOI:
10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.12.044
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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