Breakfast not the most important meal for weight loss

A new study has busted the common belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for people trying to lose weight.

The latest study published as a review article in The British Medical Journal last week says that there is no evidence that having a heavy breakfast helps lose weight or skipping breakfast causes weight gain.

Image Credit: Goffkein.pro / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Goffkein.pro / Shutterstock

The study reveals that people who take a heavy breakfast may by taking in more calories per day compared to others. Further, it reveals that contrary to popular belief, people who skip breakfast are not hungrier later in the day. Thus the researchers question the common knowledge that associates breakfast with weight loss.

The researchers at the Monash University in Melbourne looked at the different effects of regular breakfast intake and change in weight and energy intake. They looked at the results of 11 randomised trials which had investigated the effects of skipping breakfast on body weight and metabolic rate. Their results showed that people who ate breakfast took in an average of around 260 more calories per day compared to those who skipped breakfast regardless of who they ate. They noted that people who skipped breakfast were an average of 0.44 kg lighter. Further the effect of breakfast on the body weight was not different among people with normal weight or those who were overweight.

Flavia Cicuttini professor of clinical epidemiology at Monash University and study author said, “There's this big myth, everybody knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it is completely entrenched.”

There has been earlier evidence saying that having a healthy breakfast can prevent snacking later in the late and thus helps prevent overeating. This study showed that there was no difference in metabolic rates among breakfast eaters and skippers, the authors wrote. Those who skipped breakfast were not hungrier by afternoon they add.

Study authors write, “...currently, the available evidence does not support modifying diets in adults to include the consumption of breakfast as a good strategy to lose weight.” They conclude, “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.”

Experts have added that a healthy breakfast is necessary for some groups such as children and athletes and should not be skipped. The Australian Guidelines for Nutrition states that the main reason behind raised risk of obesity is “low rates of breakfast consumption.” Breakfast is also a part of current recommendations by the NHS, Public Health England and USDA Dietary guidelines for Americans. Associate professor Neale Cohen, the director of clinical diabetes at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute called for longer term studies to see the impact of skipping meals and crash diets on weight and health.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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