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Why an Early, Plant-Based Breakfast May Reduce the Risk of Diabetes


A new study says eating breakfast before 8am may help to reduce the risk of diabetes. Plus, further research indicates that plant-based foods are a good choice, too.  

Eating breakfast early in the morning may help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, suggests a new study. And by early, researchers aren’t suggesting the crack of dawn but before 8am. 

The new study—conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (also referred to as ISGlobal)—evaluated more than 100,000 people, most of whom were women, and found that eating breakfast after 9am may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly 60 percent, compared with those who eat it before 8am.


The findings are in line with an approach called chrono-nutrition, which focuses on the link between nutrition and circadian biology.

“We know that meal timing plays a key role in regulating circadian rhythms and glucose and lipid control, but few studies have investigated the relationship between meal timing or fasting and type 2 diabetes,” the study’s first author Anna Palomar-Cros says.

“Biologically, this makes sense,” she adds. “Skipping breakfast is known to affect glucose and lipid control, as well as insulin levels. This is consistent with two meta-analyses that conclude that skipping breakfast increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Researchers also evaluated dinner times and found that eating post 10pm may increase the risk, while eating regularly, at around five times a day, seemed to reduce the risk.

Type 2 diabetes is a common health concern in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and most of them (between 90 and 95 percent) have type 2.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include low physical activity and smoking. And, while meal times may be important when it comes to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, research also suggests that what you eat is significant, too.

Can a plant-based diet help with diabetes?

A growing body of research suggests that a whole food, plant-based diet may help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In October 2022, for example, one study, which was published in Dietary Science and Practice, suggested that eating a plant-based diet may reduce inflammatory dietary advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) by almost 80 percent. High levels of AGEs have been linked to a higher risk of chronic disease, including diabetes.

And in April 2023, another study, published in Scientific Reports, concluded that replacing processed and red meat products with plant-based foods, like legumes and vegetables, could help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

“[These] more subtle substitutions could be more encouraging for individuals to make changes in their diets and eventually result in more permanent and effective dietary changes in real-life settings,” noted researchers.

In March 2023, more research, published in Diabetes Care, linked a plant-based, low-carbohydrate diet with a lower risk of premature death among those already living with type 2 diabetes. “This study, once again, underscores the importance of diet quality when choosing among various diets for diabetes control and management,” the study’s senior author Qi Sun says.

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