‘Eat breakfast yourself, share dinner with a friend, give your supper to an enemy.’ This Russian proverb, a variant of our ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’ has been challenged by British biochemist Terence Kealey, who argues in his eponymous book that ‘Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal ’.
However, Dr Peter Gartner, Medical Director at the Health Retreat Park Igls, wishes to qualify this thesis: ‘The increased, anti-ageing secretion of growth hormones only occurs by skipping the evening meal. It is best not to eat anything for 14 hours before your first meal of the day, but you should try to achieve this by skipping your evening meal if possible.’
This is due to the interaction of three biochemical substances that have a significant effect on our lives: sugar, insulin and growth hormone. A slight reduction in blood sugar levels – or insulin – triggers a silent alarm in the body. Everything switches to survival mode as old cell material is eliminated and the pituitary gland secretes growth hormone. This stimulates the development of fresh cells, ensures their growth and initiates the body’s regeneration. In other words, regular fasting periods are rejuvenating.
Since the pituitary gland only produces growth hormones between midnight and 2am, skipping breakfast leads to old cells dying off, but not to new growth and rejuvenation. Only skipping the evening meal leads to increased, anti-ageing secretion of growth hormones. In practice, this means that we should refrain from eating (heavy) evening meals and, whenever a sumptuous dinner engagement is unavoidable, skip breakfast the following day.