Does Skipping Breakfast Affect Weight Loss Efforts?

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper — the famous saying came from nutritionist Adelle Davis sometime in the mid-twentieth century. It was a few decades prior when the idea of breakfast being "the most important meal of the day" was used as a marketing tactic for cereals.

But the validity of this claim has been challenged in recent years. Studies have tried to answer whether breakfast is actually more important than other meals. Another question relates to whether breakfast is a necessary component in weight loss strategies.

Past studies have argued that eating breakfast can help people maintain a healthy weight by speeding up our metabolism and reducing the likelihood of overeating later through the day. However, a newly published review by researchers in Australia suggests there is not enough evidence to back up this recommendation.

Researchers from Monash University in Melbourne analyzed 13 randomized controlled trials, comparing the effects of eating and skipping breakfast. The trials involved more than 500 participants in total, being conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan between 1992 and 2016.

Here is what they found: Those who ate breakfast tended to consume 260 extra calories per day compared to those who skipped it. On average, they were also found to gain 0.44 kilograms, which is nearly a pound.

Notably, they reported finding no evidence of improved metabolism among the ones who ate breakfast. There was also no evidence that they were less likely to overeat later in the day. "The problem is that those who eat breakfast tend to be different to those who don’t," lead author Flavia Cicuttini, Ph.D., head of the musculoskeletal unit at Monash, told Gizmodo.

Now, the takeaway is not that breakfast is bad but rather that it does not have to be forced. It should be considered that different individuals may need different recommendations based on their lifestyle, body mass, and other factors.

"The key message is that if a person likes to eat breakfast, that is fine," Cicuttini told Inverse. "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 authors did acknowledge that more research is needed before we can actually establish strong and well-informed guidelines. For many groups, consultation with a doctor is needed as skipping meals can be harmful given their age or a medical condition.

For example, patients diagnosed with diabetes may have to stick to a certain eating schedule to prevent spikes in blood sugar. Eating a healthy breakfast which includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been associated with proper growth and improved cognitive function in children and teenagers.