Your mom probably repeated the mantra, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” during your childhood. But is it actually true? Is breakfast really important? And does skipping it really make you hungrier throughout the day?
Well, a new meta-analysis published in BMJ put the theory to the test and the results are pretty surprising. (You may even want to break the news to mom.)
Breakfast-eaters weigh more
In the new meta-analysis, researchers analyzed data from 13 randomized, controlled clinical trials. Seven trials examined the effect of eating breakfast on weight. And 10 trials examined the effect of eating breakfast on total caloric intake.
It turns out, people who skipped breakfast weighed one-pound less, on average. A small benefit, for sure. But still a benefit…and, clearly, skipping breakfast didn’t cause participants to gain weight.
Plus, participants assigned to eat breakfast had a higher total daily caloric intake (by 260 kilocalories per day) than those assigned to skip breakfast. So, it seems this study debunks mom’s warnings that skipping breakfast will cause you to eat more throughout the day after all.
Of course, some previously published, observational studies linked breakfast-eating to a healthier weight. But they were poorly designed. In fact, they failed to recognize the confounding factor that people who eat breakfast also generally follow a healthier lifestyle and make good food choices overall. Plus, they have a higher socioeconomic status.
Know your body and what it wants
In the end, I think eating breakfast should come down to your own personal preference. Your body knows what it needs. And it will always tell you, if you pay attention.
So, just ask yourself…are you hungry first thing in the morning?
If not, skip breakfast. It certainly won’t harm you or cause you to gain weight.
I personally don’t eat my first real meal of the day until mid-morning, or even noontime. I’m typically just not hungry until then. And a lot of old and new science backs up my approach…
In fact, ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine recognizes that the “digestive fires” don’t burn until the sun gets higher in the sky. Plus, recent science suggests that fasting during intervals—such as between dinner and lunch the next day—can help generate weight loss and control blood sugar.
Furthermore, skipping breakfast won’t reduce your metabolism. In fact, as I pointed out recently, there’s not much you can do to alter your metabolism.
It may all come back to the GI microbiome, which is the environment in your gut where trillions of healthy probiotic bacteria thrive. These bacteria follow their own natural, circadian rhythms. And fasting allows your GI microbiome more time to re-set, rebalance, and maintain its normal, healthy state—which science shows is critical for your brain and mind as well as your immune system and your body.
On the other hand…
If you find you are hungry in the morning, go ahead and eat breakfast.
Just make sure to skip the processed foods filled with empty, refined carbs and sugars—such as bagels, donuts, cereals, pastries, or waffles. These foods will cause you to gain weight. Plus, you’ll be putting yourself on the road to developing all kinds of chronic diseases, including Type II diabetes.
Instead, enjoy all the whole, nutritious foods that belong to the Mediterranean-style diet. Which means you can opt for nutritious, whole foods, such as cheese, eggs, fruit, meat, milk, whole grains, and yogurt.
Bottom line? Mom is right about many things…but breakfast isn’t one of them.
“Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” BMJ 2019;364:l42. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l42