An article in the Times Magazine this past weekend implied that eating breakfast was optional and carried no health benefits in several recent studies in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2014 issue. It stated that there was little evidence that eating breakfast could improve one’s health.
They used as evidence a study of 300 volunteers who were trying to lose weight. The subjects were assigned to groups and directed to either eat or not eat breakfast. Sixteen weeks later they were weighed in with only minimal weight loss, only a pound or 2, and no difference between those who did or did not eat breakfast.
In the second study, done at the University of Bath, they determined baseline resting metabolic rates, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar profiles of 33 participants and randomly assigned them to either eat or skip breakfast. Volunteers were provided with activity monitors. After six weeks, all these parameters were about the same in the 2 groups. There was one difference, though. The people in the breakfast eating group moved around more during the morning. Their activity monitors showed that this group burned almost 500 calories more in light intensity movements. But, by eating breakfast, they also consumed an additional 500 calories each day. Those that did not eat breakfast were more sluggish during the morning and didn’t move around as much but skipping breakfast had not made them into ravenous eaters of large lunches and dinners.
What do we learn from these studies? First of all, in the first study, they were only looking at weight loss, not body composition (lean body mass vs. fat mass). Weight on the scale is not the only measurement to determine if the weight loss has been done in a healthy way. A person can gain muscle and lose fat and actually gain weight! The more muscle, the better the body composition, the more likely you will keep weight off and be healthy.
In the second study, they were sluggish all morning! That sure sounds like a definite negative for the no breakfast group, not only for their health but what about their job? This study measured cholesterol and blood sugar but again, no mention of body composition changes.
Doesn’t it make sense to be more active and burn the calories rather than be sluggish and not eat? The two groups don’t sound equal at all. I’ve noticed a very consistent correlation between lack of breakfast and weight gain in my practice and these studies haven’t convinced me that breakfast doesn’t matter.