Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day. But is skipping that morning meal really bad for your health? New research suggests it may not be as bad as many of us think. In this feature we take an in-depth look at breakfast and wonder if skipping it is really bad.
Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast”. This is the first meal of the day after a period of inactivity overnight. Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day in the 1960s, after American nutritionist Adelle Davis suggested that to stay fit and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. Although around 15% of people regularly skip breakfast, many still believe it to be the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides the body with important nutrients to start the day feeling energized and nourished. Many also believe it can aid weight loss.
But is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
As with most things in nutrition, the answer is complex. While some research suggests that skipping breakfast isn’t dangerous, other research suggests the opposite. Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, provides more opportunities throughout the day to give the body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimal way. However, as long as a person can absorb their nutrients through other meals, breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day.
Here’s what the science says.
Evidence supporting breakfast
Most of the claimed benefits of eating breakfast come primarily from observational studies, which cannot prove a causal relationship. For example, a 2021 systematic review of 14 observational studies found that people who eat breakfast seven times a week are less likely to suffer from:
high blood pressure
high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Again, this particular group of studies can only suggest that people who eat breakfast are more likely to have a reduced risk of the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases mentioned above. He can’t prove that breakfast is the cause.
However, an analysis of data from over 30,000 North Americans shows that people who skip breakfast may be missing out on important nutrients. The most common nutrients that people who skip breakfast lack are:
vitamins B1, B2, B3
What’s more, a randomized controlled trial published in 2017, which included 18 participants with type 2 diabetes, and 18 healthy participants, found that skipping breakfast caused disrupted circadian rhythms in both groups. Those who skipped breakfast also experienced larger blood sugar spikes after eating. The study authors therefore suggested that eating breakfast is vital for keeping our internal clocks on time.
Does skipping breakfast cause weight gain?
Although many people report increased feelings of fullness after starting their day with breakfast, studies suggest that people who omit or consume breakfast end up with almost identical total daily calorie intakes. . Another 4-month randomized controlled trial tested the effectiveness of a recommendation to eat or skip breakfast on weight loss in 309 overweight or obese adults trying to lose weight in a free-living setting. . At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that eating breakfast had no significant impact on weight loss compared to not eating breakfast.
According to a 2019 analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials published in The BMJ, adding breakfast might not be a good weight loss strategy. The researchers further added that caution should be exercised when recommending breakfast for weight loss, as it may actually have the opposite effect. However, it is important to note that this study has its limitations. The types of foods eaten were not included, and the studies were not of very long duration. Additionally, the researchers pointed to the need for additional studies to determine the long-term effects of skipping breakfast.
Interestingly, another study found that skipping breakfast can actually reduce total daily calorie intake by 252 calories. The researchers noted, however, that skipping a meal decreased the overall quality of the diet. Currently, there does not appear to be strong evidence linking breakfast intake to weight gain.
Are people who eat breakfast healthier?
According to a 2018 observational study, people who eat breakfast frequently often pay more attention to their overall nutrient intake, engage in regular physical activity, and manage stress adequately. Conversely, those who skip breakfast tend to have more unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking and frequent drinking. They also tend to have a diet higher in fat, cholesterol and calories than people who usually eat breakfast.
These results suggest that lifestyle habits may contribute to the overall health of people who eat breakfast, not the fact of eating breakfast.
Should we have breakfast?
Because breakfast gives us the opportunity to fuel our bodies with nutrients, it is an important meal. However, according to recent studies, it may not be the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast and listening to your hunger cues is very important if you wake up hungry in the morning. However, if you are busy and skip breakfast one day, there is no need to feel guilty.
If you’re in the habit of skipping breakfast, it’s important to make sure you’re maximizing your nutrient intake at other meals. Certain groups of people, such as fitness professionals or athletes who train early in the morning, may also feel better after eating breakfast.
What should you eat for breakfast?
If you love breakfast, start your day with nutritious foods.
Here are some healthy breakfast foods:
whole grain toast
Find what works best for you
Recent nutrition research continues to show us that there is no one size fits all approach to food. What is important to achieve optimal health is to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some ways to improve your health:
engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week
engaging in strength-training activities for all major muscle groups two or more days per week
maintain a healthy weight
limit added sugars, saturated fats, and processed foods
eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods
listen to your body and your hunger cues
Drink a lot of water
avoiding tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption
get at least 7 hours of sleep every 24 hours (trusted source).
Although research suggests that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, it is nonetheless important. It allows you to refuel for the day and provides you with the essential nutrients your body needs. If you choose to skip breakfast, there’s no reason to feel guilty, and there’s not much evidence that it can negatively impact your health.
What matters is eating the way that works best for you while leading a healthy lifestyle and making sure your nutrient needs are met at your other meals.
If you’re struggling to meet your nutritional needs, consider seeing a dietitian who can help answer all your questions.
Associations between breakfast eating habits and health-promoting lifestyle, suboptimal health status in Southern China: a population based, cross sectional study
Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
CARDIOVASCULAR AND METABOLIC RISK| AUGUST 22 2017
Influences of Breakfast on Clock Gene Expression and Postprandial Glycemia in Healthy Individuals and Individuals With Diabetes: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Skipping breakfast is associated with nutrient gaps and poorer diet quality among adults in the United States
* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.
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