Breakfast comes from two words — “breaking” and “fast”. It denotes the meal that takes the human body from a state of fasting to having a calorie hit.
But what if you skip it on a regular basis? According to a recent study, it may lead to gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers.
The study found a link between habitually skipping breakfast to a greater risk of GI cancers, including oesophageal, gastric, colorectal, liver, gallbladder, and extrahepatic bile duct cancers.
In this prospective cohort study, Chinese researchers examined associations between breakfast frequency and risk for gastrointestinal (GI) cancer among 63,000 adults without known cancer at baseline.
Overall, 86 percent of participants reported daily breakfast consumption, whereas 8 percent reported no breakfast consumption.
During a median follow-up of six years, 369 incident GI cancer cases were identified. Adjusted for numerous potential confounders, consuming breakfast only once or twice weekly, compared with consuming breakfast daily, was associated with excess risks for stomach cancer (a hazard ratio of 3.5) and liver cancer.
Compared with daily breakfast eaters, those who reported not eating breakfast at all had excess risks for oesophageal cancer, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, and extrahepatic bile duct cancer.
‘“We first discovered that participants who ate one or two breakfasts per week or had no breakfast had a greater risk of GI cancers, including oesophagal, gastric, colorectal, liver, gallbladder, and extrahepatic bile duct cancer than those who ate breakfast every day. This association was unaffected by demographic, anthropometric, socioeconomic, or dietary factors. Subgroup analyses and sensitivity analyses further validated the robustness of the main findings,” said the author of the study.
For those who are having doubts and making lame comments on correlation… causation etc.
Here is the full paper:
Habitually Skipping Breakfast Is Associated with the Risk of Gastrointestinal Cancers: Evidence from the Kailuan Cohort Studyhttps://t.co/KCSSp1qenV
— TheLiverDoc (@theliverdr) September 24, 2023
The cancer link
According to the study, habitually skipping breakfast was associated with elevated concentrations of CRP — C-reactive proteins, a substance produced by the liver in response to inflammation or infection in the body.
Elevated CRP levels can indicate various health conditions, including infections, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular disease.
Over an extended period, mild and persistent inflammation in the body encourages the growth and advancement of tumours through processes like oxidation, changes in the DNA (mutations), alterations in the DNA structure (DNA methylation), and chemical changes after proteins are made (posttranslational variations).
Imagine the body like a castle with knights protecting it from invaders. Sometimes, tiny fights happening inside the castle go unnoticed. These little fights are like inflammation.
Now, if these fights keep happening for a long time, they can make some of the knights inside the castle do bad things.
They might start making mistakes, like changing the colours of the castle walls or scribbling on important papers. This is a bit like how inflammation can cause problems in the body.
These mistakes made by the knights can make the castle more vulnerable to bad guys (tumours) trying to sneak in. The bad guys see these mistakes and use them to their advantage. So, the long-lasting fights (inflammation) can help the bad guys (tumours) grow and become stronger.
Thus, when there’s too much inflammation for a long time, it can make it easier for problems like tumours to develop and get worse by causing changes in the body.
These changes are triggered by substances involved in the body’s inflammatory response, such as cytokines, free radicals, prostaglandins, and growth factors.
Other factors to note
Breakfast consumption lowers the risk of obesity and metabolic risk factors. Obesity and disturbances in how the human body handles energy can play a big role in how cancer begins and progresses.
This involves a few key factors:
- Problems with Insulin:
- Think of insulin as a special key in the body. It helps the body use energy from food.
- Sometimes, one can have too much of this key, or it might not work properly. It’s a bit like having too many keys or keys that don’t fit the locks well.
- When this happens, it can cause some trouble in your body.
- Changes in hormones from fat cells:
- The body has some little helpers called hormones. They help control different things, like how one grows.
- Sometimes, when one has too much fat in your body, these helpers start acting a little differently, and that can create problems.
- Differences in gut microbes:
- Inside the tummy, there are lots of tiny living things, kind of like a tiny bug community.
- Sometimes, these tiny bugs can change, and that can affect health.
- Changes inside the body:
- Imagine the body as a house. Sometimes, things inside the house can change, like the temperature or the way the rooms are set up.
- When these changes happen inside your body, they can affect how cells — the tiny building blocks of the body — work.
So, all of these things can cause some problems in the body and might make it easier for something like cancer to develop and get worse.
It’s like having a few things go a little wonky in the body’s systems, and we would want to keep everything running smoothly and healthy.
Compared with regular breakfast eaters, habitual breakfast skippers are usually associated with unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking and physical inactivity, which are independent risk factors for the development of cancer.
However, the association between breakfast consumption and GI cancer risk remained after adjusting for these lifestyle factors.