1 August 2017Do I need to eat breakfast?

People have strong opinions about breakfast. Breakfast skippers are typically not hungry, so why should they force themselves to eat within 1-2 hours of waking? And they don't like being told that they "should" eat breakfast. Diehard breakfast eaters will swear on their life that the path to a healthy life starts with breakfast. So, who's right?

In terms of weight control, if you track, you have a lot of flexibility since you can tweak your calories intake and expenditure to stay on track. And tracking long term allows us to discover what works best to achieve our weight and health goals.

But for folks who do not track, the information in a study published 1/30/2017 is especially helpful: Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. This post will just focus on breakfast. I'll cover the findings regarding intermittent fasting and meal frequency in future posts.

Breakfast Skipping Could Be a Problem

Big studies that simply look at whether or not two things have a relationship or are associated with one another find that breakfast skippers are more likely to:

  • Have a higher body mass index (BMI)
  • Have more body fat
  • Gain more weight gain over time
  • Have a diet that is lower in vitamins and minerals
  • Have a diet higher in added sugars
  • Have higher LDL levels (bad for the heart)
  • Have lower HDL levels (bad for the heart)
  • Have high blood pressure (bad for the heart)
  • Have impaired glucose metabolism (higher A1C, higher fasting glucose, and higher all-day post-meal blood glucose)
  • Be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes
  • Have a 27% higher relative risk of cardiovascular disease if they are men

Breakfast Skipping Might Not Matter?

If you just look at randomized controlled trials (RCTs), skipping breakfast could result in improved weight loss, no difference, or less weight loss than breakfast eaters. This appears to be the case when you allow people to eat at will.

Interesting Breakfast Effects

When you control the total calories intake, we see some interesting results regarding breakfast. One RCT study showed that on a calories-controlled intake of 1200 kcal, just switching your usual breakfast habit (from eating to not eating or from not eating to eating) was associated with more weight loss.

Another RCT showed that eating the main meal of the day at breakfast vs. dinner had positive health effects. In this study, two groups consumed the same diet and calories. One group ate their main meal at breakfast (700 kcal) vs. dinner (200 kcal) while the other group at their main meal at dinner (700 kcal) vs. breakfast (200 kcal). Both groups ate the same lunch (500 kcal). After 12 weeks, the big breakfast eaters lost more weight, had a smaller waist, had lower blood triglycerides, and had a lower fasting glucose than the big dinner eaters. This is interesting considering that both groups ate the same diet and number of calories.

RCTs examining people with diabetes show that breakfast skipping is associated with reduced insulin sensitivity, as well as higher blood glucose levels after lunch and dinner.

So, Should You Eat Breakfast?

Ideally, yes! But if you hate eating breakfast then you might want to run your own study. Track your intake, blood glucose, and exercise and see if there seems to be a consistent difference between the days you eat or don't eat breakfast. Tracking will help you discover what works best for you in terms of weight control and/or diabetes.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Diabetes/Health Meal Planning & Diets/Breakfast

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