Eat or skip breakfast? What the science says

Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast”. It is the first meal of the day after a long period without eating.

Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day in the 1960s after American nutritionist Adelle Davis suggested that to stay in shape and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast as a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. ”

Although about 15% of people in the United States 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 harmful, 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 optimally.

However, as long as a person can integrate their nutrients through other meals, breakfast may not be the most critical meal of the day.

Here’s what the science says.

Most of the claimed benefits of breakfast come primarily from observational studies, which cannot prove cause and effect.

For example, a 2021 Systematic review of 14 observational studies found that those who eat breakfast seven times a week have a reduced risk of:

  • heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • caress
  • abdominal obesity
  • cardiovascular death
  • high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Again, this particular group of studies can only suggest that those 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 for those who skipped breakfast are:

  • folate
  • calcium
  • the iron
  • vitamin A
  • vitamins B1, B2, B3
  • vitamin C
  • Vitamin D.

Additionally, a randomized controlled trial published in 2017 that included 18 participants with type 2 diabetes and 18 healthy participants found that skipping breakfast disrupted circadian rhythms in both groups.

Those who skipped breakfast also experienced larger spikes in blood sugar after eating. The study authors thus suggested that breakfast is vital for keeping our internal clocks on time.

Although many people report increased feelings of fullness after starting their day with breakfast, studies suggest that those who omit or consume breakfast both end up with nearly identical total daily calorie intakes.

Another randomized controlled trial conducted over 4 months 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, researchers concluded that eating breakfast had no significant impact on weight loss compared to no breakfast.

According to a 2019 review of 13 randomized controlled trials published in The BMJ, adding breakfast may 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 review had limitations. The types of foods eaten were not included and the studies were not very long. Additionally, the researchers cited 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 it decreased overall diet quality when meals were skipped.

At present, there does not appear to be strong evidence linking eating breakfast to weight gain.

According to a 2018 observational studythose who eat breakfast frequently often pay more attention to their overall nutritional intake, participate in regular physical activity, and manage stress adequately.

Conversely, those who skip breakfast tend to have less healthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking and frequent drinking. They also tended to eat a diet higher in fat, cholesterol and calories than regular breakfast eaters.

These results suggest that lifestyle habits may contribute to the overall health status of breakfast consumers, not breakfast.

Because breakfast gives us the opportunity to fuel our bodies with nutrients, it’s 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 usually skip 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 breakfast.

What should you eat for breakfast?

If you love breakfast, start your day with nutritious foods.

Some healthy breakfast foods include:

  • eggs
  • groats
  • greek yogurt
  • berries
  • whole grain toast
  • chia seeds
  • cottage cheese
  • lawyer
  • nuts.

Recent nutrition research continues to show us that there is no one size fits all approach to food. What is important when it comes to achieving optimal health is to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Ways to improve your health include:

  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week
  • strength training activities for all major muscle groups two or more days per week
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • limit added sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods
  • eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods
  • pay attention to your body and hunger cues
  • to drink a lot of water
  • avoiding tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption
  • get at least 7 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period.

Although research suggests that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, it is nonetheless important. It’s an opportunity to help fuel your day and provide 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’s important is eating the way that’s best for you while living a healthy lifestyle and making sure your nutrient needs are met at your other meals.

If you’re having trouble meeting your nutritional needs, consider talking to a Registered Dietitian who can help answer all your questions.

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