Can Eating Breakfast Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

We've long been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Nutrition experts have written volumes on the benefits of “breaking the fast” — benefits like a youthful metabolism, less body fat and improved energy levels throughout your day.

Now we can add something else to this growing list of health benefits: A lower risk of developing diabetes.

And when you consider that diabetes is an epidemic in this country, this is really good news.

Why? Because all of us can and should eat breakfast!

Preliminary Study Suggests Breakfast Cuts Diabetes Risk

The study results were first made public at the 72nd Scientific Sessions of American Diabetes Association by Dr. Andrew Odegaard, public health professor at the University of Minnesota. He refers to his study as preliminary, but believes the results should prompt doctors to educate all of their pre-diabetics to eat breakfast.

Dr. Odegaard’s 18-year population study included more than 5,000 men and women. None of the participants had type 2 diabetes when they entered the study. During the seventh year of the study, the participants completed diet questionnaires, including questions centered on daily eating habits. They answered questions like, “How many times a week do you eat breakfast?”

The results were pretty clear: People who reported eating breakfast everyday were less likely to be obese and to develop type 2 diabetes. Dr. Odegaard’s results showed that people who reported eating breakfast everyday were:

  • 34% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • 43% less likely to become obese
  • 40% less likely to develop belly fat
The study also compiled results for people who ate breakfast 4-6 times a week. They were:

  • 24% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • 25% less likely to become obese
No particular breakfast stood out as the best. Dr Odegaard stated during his presentation, “The findings held true regardless of what they ate for breakfast.” However, the American Diabetes Association recommends a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nonfat dairy products, beans, lean meats, poultry, and fish. So don’t eat doughnuts, please.

Please note that since people who eat breakfast are also more likely to follow other healthy habits, this study within itself certainly is NOT conclusive.

Diet & Exercise Reign Supreme

One of your best defenses against type 2 diabetes is improved diet and exercise. Although the disease has a genetic component, many studies have shown that diet and exercise can prevent it — this was best shown by the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Groups 2002 and 2003.

One study also showed that while some medications delay the development of diabetes, diet and exercise work better. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5 to 10 percent reduction in body weight, produces a 58 percent reduction in the incidence of diabetes among people at risk.3

Could simply throwing breakfast into the mix result in millions of Americans leading a diabetes-free life? Possibly.

What’s your favorite healthy breakfast? Tell us in the comments below!


  1. WebMD was the source of our synopsis of the study. WebMD attended the scientific session and interviewed the authors.
  3. 72nd Scientific Sessions of American Diabetes Association, Philadelphia, June 8-12, 2012. Andrew Odegaard, PhD, MPH, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis. Robert E. Ratner, MD, chief scientific and medical officer, American Diabetes Association.
  4. Nutr Rev. 2003 Feb;61(2):76-9.


Mark said...

Knowing that correlation and cuasation are two different things, obviously in would be a mistake to conclude that eating breakfast "causes" a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. For instance, perhaps those that exercise in the morning are more likely to eat breakfast? It could be that it is the exercise, not the breakfast that was the cause. Or not. This is the danger of observational studies, and the primary problem with much of the so called "scientific conclusions" often offered up on both sides of any of these issues.

health literacy said...

Watch out for sugar content. The label says carbohydrates and sugar separate. If the numbers of these are almost close, this indicates that the cereals have large amount of sugar.

Free shipping coupon said...

It is true that diabetes is genetic but it is possible to avoid the risk. Proper diet and work out can lead to excellent results. If proper food habits is practiced then it will surely yield positive results. Another important point is remaining active and a positive attitude. It is difficult to avoid the disease but not impossible.

LifeExtension said...

Free shipping coupon - Good points! Thank you.

Unknown said...

... but you've also been pro-fasting. I'm confused.

LifeExtension said...

Peter Martin - Sorry for the confusion. Yes, we are pro-fasting, but breakfast isn't probably the best meal to skip in a day. It's better to skip a meal like dinner occasionally. Here's more info:

Unknown said...

I agree about correlation not = causation. Many people with dysregulated systems don't feel hungry in the morning, while 'normal' people do. So s warning sign for diabetes etc etc could be not feeling hungry in the morning. That is what I would conclude needed to be tested before the idea that breakfast is the key, as another study has shown that forcing yourself to eat breakfast when you don't feel like it makes you fatter. So what's with the abnormal hunger system, is the research question here.

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