Eat Breakfast or Skip It?

Some say yes, some say no

What you eat for breakfast may be the key

Eating breakfast, as opposed to skipping it, is widely believed to improve weight management. However, this belief lacks substantial supporting evidence. A recent review of evidence showed either positive or no support that eating breakfast improves appetite control and satiety and increased energy expenditure. Breakfasts that contained larger amounts of protein (30 grams of more), more energy (more than 350 calories), and which consisted of solid foods (as opposed to liquids) led to greater appetite control and satiety compared to breakfast skipping.

A new systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effects of eating or skipping breakfast on weight change and energy intake in high-income countries. The meta-analysis included 13 randomized trials. (Interestingly, none of these trials was included in the review mentioned above). Of the new studies, seven evaluated weight change, while ten evaluated energy intake. Skipping breakfast predicted a small but significant reduction in weight (0.44 kg) compared to eating breakfast. Skipping breakfast also predicted lower energy intake (260 versus 441 calories per day) compared to eating breakfast. The authors cautioned that inconsistency across trials and potentially high bias could have affected the results.

In perusing the information about the included studies, I saw only one breakfast that I would consider “healthy.” Common breakfast items included packaged cereal, milk, and juice. In my view, these breakfasts included unhealthy foods with insufficient protein, fiber, fat, and calories. As I see it, this meta-analysis compared the effects of eating a lousy breakfast or skipping it.

The question of whether or not eating breakfast matters misses a key point. What you eat probably matters more. Duh! What about starting the day with a donut and a cup of coffee? What about starting the day with a bowl of oatmeal made with thick rolled oats and a quarter cup of wheat bran, topped with a half cup of soy milk, whey protein, a half cup of plain, lowfat Greek yoghurt, a half-cup of blueberries, and a dash of cinnamon? (I eat the second breakfast four times each week.) Do you think that the first breakfast would induce worse health-related outcomes than the second breakfast?

I recommend eating breakfast, but make it one that’s worth eating with quality foods that provide sufficient (but not too much) protein, fiber, and calories.


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