New Study: Skipping Breakfast Could Lead to Higher Rates of This Disorder

Plus, the breakfast foods you should reach for to reduce inflammation and give your mental wellness a boost.

Breakfast has often been called the most important meal of the day. In recent years, however, intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating waves have changed our perspective; nowadays, it wouldn’t be completely outlandish if someone ate breakfast at an unconventional time, or skipped it altogether. So, is breakfast still important?

Several studies still show that it can be important for physical and health—and what you eat for your morning meal matters more than you might suspect. Starting your day with foods that can cause inflammation, for example, might be doing more harm than good.

A new study, to be published in the March 2024 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders, aims to evaluate the effects of skipping breakfast and the effects of eating an inflammatory diet for breakfast on rates of depression. They note that while breakfast and its relation to depression and inflammatory foods and their effect on depression have been studied, fewer studies have analyzed the relationship between the two.

The study gathered data from over 20,000 adults in the U.S., 20 years and older (with an average age of 47), from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Researchers looked at self-reported breakfast consumption and the types of foods that the participants chose overall. The foods were compared to the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), an evolving database of foods that have been analyzed for their macronutrients, flavonoids, and chemical makeup for how inflammatory they tend to be in the body.

The study found that skipping breakfast was a predictor of depression, but an inflammatory diet also increased risk. “DII mediated the positive association between eating breakfast and depression,” noted the authors. Eating breakfast might reduce inflammation and reduce depression, but prioritizing foods at breakfast that are anti-inflammatory would be an even bigger boost to well-being. “Besides the frequency of eating breakfast, what you eat for breakfast was associated with chronic inflammation,” said the authors.

Along with the tendency to skip breakfast and eat an inflammatory diet, the participants with depressive symptoms were also more likely to be female, less active, smokers, and have diabetes or cardiovascular disease. So, other healthy lifestyle choices certainly played their part in mental health beyond food choices. “We recommend that adults should develop the habit of eating breakfast regularly, correct poor lifestyles, and then reduce the risk of depression,” said the authors.

14 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas That Will Help You Lose Weight

What to eat for breakfast to reduce inflammation

Foods that lower inflammation in the body can easily be part of a healthy, well-rounded breakfast, including whole grains—like oatmeal—low-fat yogurt without added sugars, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, and low-fat sources of protein.

Inflammatory foods you should avoid starting your day with include pastries and donuts, processed meats, and those high in saturated fat such as bacon and sausage, white bread (sorry, everything bagels), and sugary cereal. Unfortunately, your heavily sweetened coffee drink also qualifies.

In terms of meal timing, you can still follow intermittent fasting schedules and include breakfast in your diet. A recent study suggested that a fasting protocol that included breakfast was more beneficial for overall health and weight loss than one that skipped it.

Meaghan Cameron, MS
Meaghan has more than 15 years of experience in writing and editing food, travel, fitness, sports, and lifestyle material. Her professional journey began at Reader's Digest, where she honed her skills and developed a passion for creating engaging content. Throughout her career, she has contributed her expertise to renowned platforms such as Food Network, Martha Stewart, Outside Television, and Eat This, Not That! Additionally, Meaghan has valuable experience in radio and video production. Before entering the world of content creation, Meaghan spent more than a decade working in the restaurant industry. This hands-on experience has provided her with insider knowledge and secrets about the workings of the industry. Meaghan holds a bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase and a master's degree in publishing from Pace University.

New Study: Skipping Breakfast and Eating These Foods Could Lead to Higher Rates of Depression

Plus, the right foods to eat to reduce inflammation and boost your mental wellness.

Breakfast has often been called the most important meal of the day. In recent years, however, intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating waves have changed the way it’s viewed. Nowadays, it wouldn’t be completely outlandish if someone never ate breakfast or ate it at an unconventional time. So, is breakfast still important?

Several studies still show that it can be important for physical health as well as mental health, but what you eat for the morning meal matters more than you might suspect. The reason for this has to do with levels of inflammation in the body and foods that reduce inflammation versus those that cause it. Inflammation can be the beneficial type when your body is trying to heal an injury, for example, but can be dangerous when it’s chronic, as is the case with a poor diet.  

A new study that will be published in the March 2024 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders aims to evaluate the effects of skipping breakfast and the effects of eating an inflammatory diet for breakfast on rates of depression. They note that while breakfast and its relation to depression and inflammatory foods and their effect on depression have been studied, fewer studies have analyzed the relationship between the two.

The study gathered data from over 20,000 adults in the U.S., 20 years and older (with an average age of 47), from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded survey is intended to gather health data via surveys and health metrics to represent the general population. For this study, the researchers looked at self-reported breakfast consumption and the types of foods that the participants chose overall. The foods were compared to the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), an evolving database of foods that have been analyzed for their macronutrients, flavonoids, and chemical makeup for how inflammatory they tend to be in the body.

What the study found was that skipping breakfast was a predictor of depression, but an inflammatory diet also increased risk. “DII mediated the positive association between eating breakfast and depression,” noted the authors. Including breakfast might reduce inflammation and reduce depression, but including foods at breakfast that are anti-inflammatory would be an even bigger boost to well-being. “Besides the frequency of eating breakfast, what you eat for breakfast was associated with chronic inflammation,” said the authors.

Along with the tendency to skip breakfast and eat an inflammatory diet, the participants with depressive symptoms were also more likely to be female, less active, smokers, and have diabetes or cardiovascular disease. So, other healthy lifestyle choices certainly played their part in mental health beyond food choices. “We recommend that adults should develop the habit of eating breakfast regularly, correct poor lifestyles, and then reduce the risk of depression,” said the authors.

14 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas That Will Help You Lose Weight

What to eat for breakfast to reduce inflammation

In terms of choosing the right breakfast, the anti-inflammatory foods are probably the healthy ones you’d expect. In general, foods that lower inflammation in the body are the ones you know you should eat for breakfast, including whole grains—like oatmeal—low-fat yogurt without added sugars, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, and low-fat sources of protein.

On the inflammatory side are the breakfast treats that you should eat sparingly, including pastries and donuts, processed meats, and those high in saturated fat like bacon and sausage, white bread (sorry, everything bagels), and sugary cereal. Unfortunately, your heavily sweetened coffee drink also qualifies.

In terms of meal timing, you can still follow intermittent fasting schedules and include breakfast in your diet. A recent study suggested that a fasting protocol that included breakfast was more beneficial for overall health and weight loss than one that skipped it.

Meaghan Cameron, MS
Meaghan has more than 15 years of experience in writing and editing food, travel, fitness, sports, and lifestyle material. Her professional journey began at Reader's Digest, where she honed her skills and developed a passion for creating engaging content. Throughout her career, she has contributed her expertise to renowned platforms such as Food Network, Martha Stewart, Outside Television, and Eat This, Not That! Additionally, Meaghan has valuable experience in radio and video production. Before entering the world of content creation, Meaghan spent more than a decade working in the restaurant industry. This hands-on experience has provided her with insider knowledge and secrets about the workings of the industry. Meaghan holds a bachelor's degree in English from the State University of New York (SUNY) Purchase and a master's degree in publishing from Pace University.