Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Author Jonathon Goldstein once said, “Everyone runs around trying to find a place where they still serve breakfast because eating breakfast, even if it's 5 o'clock in the afternoon, is a sign that the day has just begun and good things can still happen. Having lunch is like throwing in the towel.”

Maybe for many of us breakfast represents that “new day dawning” attitude, but is there really something more to it — physiologically speaking? There’s no doubt that one of the most popular statements ever made in nutrition and medicine is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Let’s face it; this is what the “experts” believe. From all specialties of medicine, doctors have made this claim in books, infomercials, and throughout lectures halls of colleges and universities.

But is it really true? Before we answer that, let’s take a look at what the research says about breakfast as the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast Influences What You Eat throughout the Day

According to a Korean study, people who skipped breakfast ate more fat throughout the day.1 The researchers looked at 415 people, ages 30 to 50.

They collected information that included body fat measurements, three-day dietary intake, blood pressure, and blood analysis. The subjects were classified into three groups based on the number of days they skipped breakfast:

  • Regular breakfast eater
  • Often breakfast eater
  • Rare breakfast eater
The researchers discovered that those who rarely ate breakfast ate more fat throughout the day. So, the take home message is that eating breakfast may lead to better food choices throughout the day.

Breakfast Reduces the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low good cholesterol. It’s an epidemic in our country and is associated with killers like diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.

Researchers from the UK, using a British birth population study that began in 1946, found that eating breakfast reduced the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

The researchers analyzed people in their early 40s and found that when they ate a low-fat breakfast and a low-fat mid-morning snack, the chances of developing metabolic syndrome within the next 10 years was greatly reduced.2

How exactly breakfast helps with things like high blood sugar and high triglycerides is unknown. But it may have to do with improved metabolism by “breaking” the 7 to 9 hour fast.

Breakfast Influences Body Fat Accumulation

One study showed that a bigger breakfast with a smaller dinner but not breakfast only (as in one big meal at the start of your day) helped to control body weight and fat accumulation in mice on a high-fat meals schedule.

The findings of this study suggest that dietary recommendations for weight reduction and/or maintenance should include information on the timing and quantity of dietary intake.3

Again, we’re not sure how exactly “breaking” the overnight fast accomplishes this, but it does seem to influence body fat and where it accumulates on your body. Interesting … to say the least.

What You Need to Know

Where does this leave us? Well, it seems pretty clear: Eat breakfast. Breaking the overnight fast influences your daily food choices, could improve metabolism, and seems to influence body fat.

So what do you think? If you’re a breakfast eater, share with us your favorite healthy recipe to begin your day.

References:


  1. Nutr Res Pract. 2011 Oct;5(5):455-63. Epub 2011 Oct 28.
  2. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Jul 10. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.103. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. J Circadian Rhythms. 2012 May 15;10(1):4. [Epub ahead of print]

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