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21-03-2012 | Cardiology | Article

Italian-style breakfast ‘good for the heart’


Free abstract

MedWire News: Eating an Italian-style breakfast may protect against the onset of cardiovascular (CV) disorders and related mortality, say researchers.

Their results showed that consumption of foods typical of an Italian breakfast - milk, coffee, tea, yogurt, crispbread/rusks, breakfast cereals, brioche, biscuits, honey, sugar, and jam - can improve the CV risk profile and quality of life, and reduce the risk for developing the metabolic syndrome and CV disease in a population of Italian adults.

The study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, included over 18,000 individuals aged 35 years or older. Their daily nutritional intakes over the past year were assessed using the validated European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Food frequency questionnaire.

From this, the researchers developed a standardized "breakfast score" by adding all the standardized amounts of the 11 food types most frequently eaten by the study participants.

Coffee, crispbread/rusks, and sugar were consumed the most frequently, by 93.9%, 87.9%, and 81.6% of the population, respectively, followed by milk (67.7%), biscuits (42.9%), yogurt (42.8%), brioches (38.0%), jam (37.3%), and tea (33.4%). Cereal and honey were the least-consumed foods included in the scores, eaten by 17.0% and 10.4% of the study population, respectively.

Participants with higher breakfast scores were more frequently women, younger, and smokers, with a higher social status and lower physical activity than those with a lower breakfast score. They also had a lower risk for having abdominal obesity, a high body mass index, elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and higher levels of blood glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and C-reactive protein.

These associations were unaffected by adjustment for age, gender, smoking, obesity, physical activity, and social status, say Licia Iacoviello (Catholic University, Campobasso, Italy) and colleagues.

The risk for developing the metabolic syndrome (defined according to the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III criteria) was 37% lower for individuals in the highest breakfast score quintile compared with those in the lowest quintile.

Furthermore, women and men in the highest breakfast score quintile showed a respective 43% and 45% lower risk for developing CV disease than women and men in the lowest quintile.

"The significant inverse association… between a typical Italian breakfast pattern and both the metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular global risk score highlights the concept that a 'healthy' food pattern might include some individual less 'healthy' food," say Iacoviello et al. "What matters is the whole pattern rather than its single components."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Nikki Withers

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