Food for thought: Doubt cast on importance of breakfast

Alicia Farmer
February 1, 2019

A review of studies found that eating breakfast does not appear to help people lose weight and should not necessarily be recommended as a weight-loss strategy.

While those who opted to eat breakfast, ate an average of around 260 more calories per day.

Some previous studies have suggested that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than people who skip the morning meal.

"Therefore, the problem with observational studies is that it may not be the breakfast eating that is good but rather the individual's wider healthy lifestyle and food choices that result in the benefits on weight", senior author Flavia Cicuttini, an epidemiologist at Monash University in Australia, told Gizmodo via email.

The pooled results found a very small difference in weight between those who ate breakfast and those who did not, with those who skipped breakfast on average 0.44kg lighter.

Spector also noted the growing popularity and scientific weight behind time-restricted eating, a form of intermittent fasting where adherents limit their food intake to a particular window of time every day - those on the 16:8 diet, for example, fast for 16 consecutive hours every 24 hours, and eat all their meals within the remaining eight.

If you're trying to lose weight you've probably been told not to skip breakfast, as it could make you hungrier later in the day.

Eating a hearty breakfast doesn't help people eat less later in the day, and those who have breakfast end up eating more calories each day, the review found. But new research suggests this might not be true. Some trials looked at how breakfast effected on daily energy intake and others examined the relationship between eating in the morning and changes in body weight.

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And they say caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults - because it could have the opposite effect. "However, there is no evidence that we should be encouraging people to change their eating pattern to include breakfast in order to prevent weight gain or obesity".

The researchers wrote: "This study suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss regardless of established breakfast habit".

The review also didn't find any significant differences in metabolic rates between breakfast skippers and breakfast eaters.

The authors said the overall quality of the studies was low and more research is needed.

"Breakfast has the potential to be one of the easiest times of the day to eat a balanced meal, and to meet a number of nutrition targets". "There are lots of reasons why people eat breakfast - growing children might want to eat before they go to school, older people might need to eat after taking medication or it could be a cultural tradition", she says. But what we tend to see is that there's a strong push towards eating breakfast because "you should".

Overall amounts of glucose in the blood are also lower just 14 days after adopting a three meal a day eating plan.

It's common for people on such protocols to break their fasts at lunchtime, regularly skipping breakfast and finishing their day's feeding with dinner at about 8pm. "While waiting for guidelines to change, no harm can be done in trying out your own personal experiments in skipping breakfast".

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