Chronic stress is associated with indicators of diet quality in habitual breakfast skippers

Publication Date

November 2016

Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics







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Last Page



BackgroundPrevious studies suggest skipping breakfast is associated with lower diet quality, but possible reasons underlying this relationship are not clear.ObjectiveOur aim was to determine the relationship between chronic stress and variations in diet quality in the context of breakfast eating or breakfast skipping.DesignBased on morning eating habits, 40 breakfast eaters and 35 breakfast skippers participated in a cross-sectional study. Diet assessment was based on unannounced 24-hour recalls.Participants/settingWomen, ages 18 to 45 years, with a body mass index (calculated as kg/m2) <40 were recruited in the greater Sacramento, CA, area between 2009 and 2013. Only women who consistently ate or skipped breakfast were enrolled.Main outcome measuresCompliance with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was measured using the Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010). Stress and executive function were evaluated with validated questionnaires and a computer-based task, respectively.Statistical analyses performedDiet characteristics of breakfast eating and breakfast skipping were evaluated as nutrient densities (amounts per 1,000 kcal) and compared using a one-way analysis of covariance, with body mass index as covariate. Diet and stress variable associations were assessed using Pearson correlations.ResultsDespite no observed differences in daily energy intake between breakfast skipping and breakfast eating, overall diet quality (P=0.001), whole grains (P=0.002), fruit (P=0.002), empty calories (P=0.050), fiber (P=0.001), calcium (P=0.001), potassium (P=0.033), and folate (P=0.013) intakes were higher in breakfast eating. In the evening, breakfast skipping consumed more added sugars (P=0.012) and saturated fat (P=0.006). In breakfast skipping, reported stress was associated with empty calories (r=−0.39; P=0.027) and evening intake of added sugars (r=0.501; P=0.005). These relationships were not observed in breakfast eating.ConclusionsBreakfast skippers were less likely to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and consumed more empty calories at night. Chronic stress was related to evening eating choices and overall empty calories in the diet of breakfast skippers, whereas breakfast eaters’ dietary intake did not appear to be affected by chronic stress.


Breakfast skipping, Stress, Healthy Eating Index, Food intake, Night-time eating

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