We have all heard time and again from our parents, teachers, and doctors that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Most of us will either indulge in an English breakfast or just a banana with our morning cup of Joe to fuel our body with energy to start our day. However, this dietary conviction has been challenged, as skipping a nutrient-dense breakfast is found to not be an impediment to weight loss, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Known as the most important meal of the day, breakfast has long been associated with lower body weight in previous studies. It is commonly recommended that we eat breakfast to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but the effects of adopting these strategies to reduce body weight is unknown. “We specifically found that research articles tended to overstate the strength of study designs and ignored evidence that did not support the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity,” said Andrew Brown, first author of the study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), in the news release. “These distortions leave readers believing that the relationship between breakfast and obesity is more strongly established by science than the data actually support.”
To test this commonly held assumption, the team, led by David Allison, associate dean for science in the UAB School of Public Health, and his colleagues observed the effectiveness of eating or skipping breakfast for weight loss in over 300 overweight and obese study participants. They were observed over a 16-week period to confirm whether there was a casual link between breakfast-skipping and obesity. The participants were assigned to be in one of the three groups: an intervention group told to eat breakfast, an intervention group told to skip breakfast, or a control group that wasn’t given any specific information about breakfast. This group could eat or skip breakfast as they pleased.
The findings revealed weight loss was not influenced when comparing "regularly consuming" with "regularly skipping" breakfast. Overall, the researchers did not see differences between groups in regard to weight loss, although all three groups showed good compliance. The researchers do caution they did not look at a specific type of breakfast or the timing of the food intake, which suggests they can’t draw conclusions about the impact of eating breakfast on appetite, metabolism, or overall body fat.
"We should try to understand why eating or skipping breakfast did not influence weight loss, despite evidence that breakfast may influence appetite and metabolism,” said Emily Dhurandhar, lead study author and assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at UAB, Medical News Today reported. The researchers note since the study only measured body weight as an outcome, they cannot draw conclusions about the impact of eating breakfast on appetite, metabolism, or overall body fat. However, these findings could hold implications for nutrition and weight loss research.
In contrast with the UAB researchers’ findings, a 2013 study conducted by Tel Aviv University found eating a large breakfast and a small dinner promoted weight loss and reduced the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol more so than eating a small breakfast and a big dinner. The study emphasized consuming the right nutrients can help you maintain weight loss, provide energy, improve your mood, and stave off disease, especially during breakfast.
Further research can help determine whether certain types of breakfast foods, quantity of food, and the timing of the first meal could influence body weight. One thing all nutritionists can agree with is for weight loss to occur, we need to reduce calories over a typical day. Now, it is our prerogative to choose to eat or skip breakfast to achieve this goal, but according to science, it doesn’t matter.
Alcorn A, Allison DB, Bourland AC et al. The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014.
Barnea M, Froy O, Jakubowicz D, Wainstein J. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity. 2013.