The heart is an essential yet vulnerable organ, and as a result it and its functioning have been the subject of intense study for thousands of years. More recently, the question of how the heart functions when a person is doing physical activity and how the heart functions when a person has had a certain food or lack of food has been of special interest due to the obvious increase in death rates due to heart problems and obesity. With these and other issues in mind, Dagenais et al.’s study looks at heart rate, oxygen consumption, pulse, and other measurements of heart health and measures these factors in participants who are fasting, have a carbohydrate meal, and have a protein meal (Dagenais et al., 1966).
Their findings are that eating makes many factors of cardiac health go upwards, including heart rate, and that fasting leads to more continuous and less steep cardiac measurements (Dagenais et al., 1966). Also, their findings show that food and fasting do not affect cardiac measurements any differently during exercise than they do during a period of rest (Dagenais et al., 1966). While these findings are significant, their significance is lessened by the age of the study and its technology and methods, the incredibly unhealthy nature of the meals given to participants which may have made their results different, and the low number of people that the study measured (Dagenais et al., 1966).
However, this study points to the significance and complexity of the influence of food or fasting on cardiac health, as it was studied in the 1960’s and is still being studied today (Dagenais et al., 1966). Similarly, Yi et al.’s study measures many different factors of heart health and agrees with Dagenais et al.’s study on the heart rate after food in exercise and in a lack of exercise (Yi et al., 1990; Dagenais et al.). This study also suggests that further research on food and measured cardiac factors should be done in order to give cardiac patients clear and useful instructions on how quickly and what to eat to help themselves and their hearts remain healthy (Yi et al., 1990).
Another study conducted by Birds and Hay solely investigates what each participants’ heart rate in exercise when a participant has eaten carbohydrates, protein, or nothing and has eaten these foods at either 3 hours before exercise or in a negligible time before exercise (Birds and Hay, 1987). This study points to the importance of breakfast, as it shows that eating food right before exercise negatively impacts the heart but that food 3 hours before exercise is better than not eating any food at all before exercise with regards to heart rate (Birds and Hay, 1987).
This study’s applicability to debatable due to the food used in the study being designed to be very easily digested and not being something which would be eaten by an average person (Birds and Hay, 1987). In contrast to this study, findings from a study on QT which also recorded heart rate data are based upon ingestion of food that is very calorie dense and represents a regular, if rather unhealthy, meal (Sciot et al., 2016). Interestingly, this study’s findings show that participants’ heart rates climbed upwards when they had eaten food and were sitting but didn’t do anything to the heart rate during exercise as would be expected according to other research (Sciot et al., 2016).
This finding is most likely due to the nature of the exercise, which was simple walking instead of anything difficult, suggesting that more difficult exercise practices, such as the step test, might show different results (Sciot et al., 2016). This study also only includes measurements for 10 people and only includes between person data comparisons, making it less reliable than other previous studies (Sciot et al., 2016). Still, the what food or fasting makes a person’s heart do is not yet fully agreed upon, and more research is necessary to further investigate this question and develop conclusions which could increase the health of the general population and show the populace how to have better cardiovascular fitness with regards to heart rate at a certain time as needed.
To further analyze what negatively and positively affects cardiovascular fitness, we investigated the effects of eating breakfast and not eating breakfast on a person’s immediate measured cardiovascular fitness, and we defined cardiovascular fitness as measured by heart rate. To measure cardiovascular fitness thoroughly, we measured heart rate before exercise and heart rate after approximately 3 minutes of exercise modeled after the step test. Using this heart rate, each participants’ fitness index was calculated to provide information regarding that individual’s cardiovascular fitness at that time. We predicted that a person who had had breakfast would have a lower calculated fitness index than a person who did not have breakfast.