News on Wellness

Breakfast – Is It REALLY the Most Important Meal?

breakfastMost everyone has been taught that of all meals, breakfast is the most important. However, this is an interesting claim considering there is very little scientific evidence to support it. In fact, based on new research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, benefits of eating early in the morning may actually be overrated.

While numerous studies have been conducted, one in particular at the University of Alabama at Birmingham focused primarily on breakfast and any connection with weight loss. At this institution, researchers recruited close to 300 people to participate, all of them trying to drop unwanted pounds but also with eating habits that included or excluded the breakfast meal.

Each person was randomly assigned to one of three tasks – completely skip breakfast, eat the same meal each morning, or follow current dietary habits. The participants were asked to return to the lab after 16 weeks of following the instructions and surprisingly, there was no significant weight loss. Although a few people dropped one or two pounds, overall everyone weighed the same as they did when the study began. Simply put, breakfast played no role in the attempt to lose weight.

To determine the effects of breakfast on the body specific to weight, another study was done at the University of Bath but unlike the previous University of Alabama at Birmingham study that consisted of participants interested in losing weight, all of these 33 volunteers had lean bodies. Before being randomly told to eat or skip breakfast, each person’s cholesterol level, resting metabolic rate, and blood sugar profile was taken. In addition, they were all given activity monitors.

After six weeks, researchers noted no real change in cholesterol, resting metabolic rate or blood sugar levels but in addition, weight stayed the same. However, the one thing researchers did see different was an increase in activity for the people who ate breakfast. Using the activity monitor provided, data showed that participants burned nearly 500 calories more than those who skipped the breakfast meal.

While researchers of these two studies, as well as others, agree people who skip breakfast are more sluggish during the morning hours, there was no indication they consumed larger lunches and dinners, contrary to popular belief. According to Emily Dhurandhar, assistant professor at the University of Alabama, “Breakfast may be just another meal”, hinting there are no drastic benefits of eating this meal or not. Dhurandhar also stated that skipping breakfast did not cause people to gain weight.

While it appears the earlier belief of breakfast being the most important meal of the day may be nothing more than a myth. However, additional research is needed since all of the studies conducted so far have been short-term and involved a relatively small number of participants. In support of further research, James Betts, professor overseeing the University of Bath study, stated “It’s not yet clear, for instance, whether heavy people’s bodies respond differently to morning meals than lean peoples or if the timing and makeup of breakfast matters”.

Based on recent scientific findings, it appears there is no significant advantage or disadvantage to eating breakfast. For the most part, people will continue to follow their current dietary habits, or at least until the time comes that more data is gathered to support eating this early morning meal.

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