Breakfast — another theory bites the dust

Wednesday, 06 February, 2019

Breakfast — another theory bites the dust

Breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, with a review in the BMJ disagreeing with the assumption that eating breakfast daily promotes weight loss.

Although previous studies have suggested that eating breakfast is linked with maintaining a healthy weight, researchers suggest these findings have been observational and could reflect a person’s wider healthy lifestyle and food choices.

Researchers from Monash University analysed the effect of regularly eating breakfast on weight change and daily energy intake, based on 13 randomised controlled trials, mainly in the US and UK, from the last 28 years. Participants included habitual/non-habitual breakfast eaters, or both, at a range of body weights, who were monitored between 24 hours and 16 weeks.

They found those who skipped breakfast were on average 0.44 kg lighter, while those eating breakfast had higher daily calorie intake (an average of 260 more calories consumed in a day) regardless of their usual breakfast habits. The effect of breakfast on weight did not differ between people with a normal weight and those who were overweight.

Eating breakfast was believed to help with weight loss because of the efficient burning of calories early in the day preventing overeating later on, but there was no significant difference in metabolic rates between the two, and those who skipped breakfast did not have a greater appetite later in the day.

The researchers warned that the quality of studies was low, so the findings should be interpreted with caution. However, they argued that consuming breakfast is not necessarily a good strategy to lose weight. “Although eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it may have the opposite effect,” they concluded.

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, said that people have different preferences for when they eat food, which “might suit our unique personal metabolism”.

“No ‘one size fits all’ and prescriptive slow moving diet guidelines filled with erroneous information look increasingly counterproductive and detract from important health messages. 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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