Eating breakfast may not help prevent weight gain

February 11, 2019 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Eating breakfast may not help prevent weight gain

The notion that skipping breakfast contributes to weight gain doesn’t mean that eating breakfast can help you lose weight, a research review from Monash University in Melbourne in Australia suggests. 

Researchers examined data from 13 studies in which some participants ate breakfast and others skipped it. The people who ate breakfast consumed more calories and weighed more than individuals who skipped this morning meal.

Breakfast eaters ate an average of 260 calories more a day and weighed an average of 0.44 kilogram (about 1 pound) more than breakfast avoiders. 

According to the researchers, “A calorie is a calorie, whatever time you eat it, and people shouldn’t eat if they are not hungry.” 

While some previous research has suggested that eating breakfast increases the likelihood of maintaining a healthy weight, many of the studies in the new review were not randomized controlled trials designed to prove whether breakfast directly causes weight loss or prevents weight gain. 

There is also the possibility that people who eat breakfast have a healthier weight because they’re different from those who skip it, with perhaps healthier overall eating habits or more consistent exercise routines.

No difference between eating or skipping breakfast and weight, metabolism, hunger

Researchers examined data from clinical trials done mainly in the U.S. and the UK over the past three decades that looked at the effect of eating breakfast on weight and calorie intake. 

There was no meaningful difference in the connection between breakfast consumption and body weight or calorie intake based on how much individual participants weighed. Results were similar for people at a healthy weight and for individuals who were overweight. 

Some studies looked at whether breakfast influenced metabolism (i.e., how many calories people burned). But researchers didn’t find meaningful differences based on whether or not participants had breakfast. 

Dieters are sometimes told skipping breakfast will make them hungrier and increase their propensity to overeat later in the day. But the analysis didn’t find a difference in hunger levels based on whether or not participants ate a morning meal. 

Study limitations

There was inconsistency across the individual studies and all of the trials were very short term – only one or two weeks long. So, the findings do not tell us about the long-term impact of either eating or skipping breakfast on body weight.

The researchers also noted that the quality of the studies was “mostly low” and the findings should be interpreted with caution.

Still, the lower total calorie intake associated with skipping breakfast suggests this approach may work for some people. When people skipped breakfast, they did eat more later in the day, but not enough to compensate for the extra calories they had not consumed earlier.

The types of foods people eat may matter as much, if not more, than the total calories they consume or exactly when they have their first meal of the day, say experts.

People are unique and may benefit from different amounts of carbohydrates or fats depending on their genes, microbiome and metabolism.

Source: The BMJ, online January 30, 2019.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.