Brunch habit linked to severe health impacts

By Thuy An   June 27, 2024 | 05:00 pm PT
Thuy felt disheartened as she reviewed her medical results, which showed severe digestive diseases stemming from her habit of merging breakfast and lunch into a single meal.

Thuy, a 30-year-old woman from Hanoi’s Dong Da district, has been merging breakfast with lunch for many years due to her tendency to wake up late.

Working in information technology, she takes on numerous side jobs and often stays up until 3 a.m. The next day, she gets up just in time for work, goes to the company for meetings, handles tasks, and by the time she looks at the clock, it’s almost noon. So, she waits until 11:30 a.m. to head to the cafeteria to eat with her colleagues.

For the past three months, she has suffered from epigastric pain, belching, acid reflux, loss of appetite, a pale complexion, and many sleepless nights. She sought a check-up at Hanoi Medical University Hospital and was diagnosed with gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection, and reflux, exacerbated by her frequent late nights and irregular lifestyle.

Eating breakfast late or skipping it may lead to several health consequences. Illustration photo by Unsplash

Eating breakfast late or skipping it may lead to several health consequences. Illustration photo by Unsplash

Dr. Huynh Tan Vu, from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy Hospital, notes that while there are no specific statistics, the habit of having brunch, or "eating the first meal of the day at lunchtime," has become increasingly popular, particularly among people aged 25-40. This habit can have several negative health effects for some individuals.

According to him, the body needs between 2,000 and 2,500 calories each day, with breakfast providing 400 to 500 calories to replenish energy after a long sleep.

"Thus, eating breakfast late or skipping it can prevent the body from replenishing its glycogen stores, which serve as energy reserves, after a night, leading to hypoglycemia," the doctor explains, adding that the practice also causes people to feel tired, anxious, restless, and unable to concentrate on work or studies.

Many people who skip breakfast tend to consume a large amount of food at lunch, making them prone to digestive issues such as stomach reflux or abdominal pain, and stomach ulcers. This overstimulation can also disrupt daily bowel habits, leading to diarrhea, nausea, or constipation.

Dung, 29, has lost six kilograms in a month, dropping to 47 kilograms, due to her unhealthy eating habits. Every day, she stays up until 2 a.m. managing her online store and packing orders, then sleeps until 10-11 a.m. the next morning. Upon waking up, she drinks a cup of coffee to feel more alert and then combines her breakfast and lunch into one meal.

"Because I have breakfast late, I need to drink coffee to line my stomach and regain energy, then wait until noon to have my first meal of the day," Dung said.

Additionally, her practice of skipping breakfast is also part of an intermittent fasting regimen to lose weight after she gained 18 kg following her childbirth. She typically fasts from 6 p.m. the previous evening until noon the next day to burn fat and lose weight. However, this has left her constantly tired and unable to concentrate on her work.

Dung usually wakes up at 10 a.m. and combines breakfast and lunch into one meal. Photo courtesy of Dung

Dung usually wakes up at 10 a.m. and combines breakfast and lunch into one meal. Photo courtesy of Dung

Dr. Nguyen Trong Hung, head of the Adult Nutrition Counseling Department at the National Institute of Nutrition, notes that many people see breakfast as optional and often skip it, while it’s not the case. In principle, after finishing dinner and going through the night to 6 a.m. the next day, the stomach has been "empty" for about 10 to 12 hours. Considering the need to prepare energy for a whole new day of activities, it is essential to replenish energy stores by eating breakfast.

Skipping breakfast means that the body doesn’t have an immediate source of energy, forcing it to mobilize stored sugars and proteins, which can accelerate the aging process. Meanwhile, those who skip breakfast may consume more food in the evening due to a feeling of hunger while being less active during this time of the day, leading to an accumulation of fat and potentially resulting in overweight and obesity issues.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2022 suggests that skipping meals, either breakfast or dinner, increases the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases.

The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reports that individuals who skip breakfast and eat late dinners have a four to five times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases compared to those who do not follow these habits. Skipping breakfast can also increase cortisol levels, which may lead to increased appetite and poorer sleep quality.

Experts recommend maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, eating regularly and on time, and controlling portion sizes. It is advised to have breakfast before 8 a.m., or within 30 minutes to an hour after waking up.

A nutritious breakfast should be well-rounded and include daily protein, carbohydrates, fats, and fruits and vegetables. This approach helps ensure that the body gets the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally throughout the day.

It’s also advised to limit sugar and processed foods in one’s diet plan. Controlling the amount of fats and oils consumed is also crucial. For breakfast, it’s best to avoid sweets, foods high in sugar, or reheating leftovers that may not provide optimal nutritional value.

"Absolutely do not starve yourself, but reduce high-energy foods such as fats, fried, roasted, sautéed dishes, fatty meats, and sweets," Dr. Vu advised.

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