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You may want to rethink what you pick up for breakfast

Are you one of the thousands of Canadians who enjoys a greasy breakfast sandwich in the morning?

Sure, it tastes great. And as you probably already know that an egg piled with cheese and bacon in an English muffin is hardly health food. But new research shows breakfast sandwiches can cause harm to your arteries right after eating them.

A new study presented this week at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, which wraps up Wednesday in Toronto, shows that consuming two breakfast sandwiches can decrease blood flow into the arms by 15 to 20 per cent. The effects from one meal are temporary. But over time, those high-fat and cholesterol-rich meals can lead to buildup in the arteries, raising the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

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The study, led by student researcher Vincent Lee working in the lab of Todd Anderson, director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, was conducted using university students. They were studied on a day when they had no breakfast and on a day when they consumed two breakfast sandwiches each, which amounts to about 900 calories. Breakfast sandwiches also typically have high amounts of sodium, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure.

The researchers found that the meal had an immediate, albeit temporary, impact on the ability of blood to flow through the participants' arms.

The troubling finding raises important questions about how these dietary choices affect our health over the long term.

"This study reminds us that our behaviours are the backbone of preventing heart disease," Heart and Stroke Foundation spokeswoman Beth Abramson said in a press release.

It's clear not enough of us are engaging in behaviours that can help prevent future disease. Studies indicate that up to 60 per cent Canadian adults are overweight or obese. About 30 per cent of children and adolescents are overweight and obese, according to Statistics Canada. Many of us consume unhealthy processed foods too often, which not only contribute to our waistline, but put us at risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a range of other health problems.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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