You’ve probably been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that skipping it is a quick way to add pounds and negatively impact your health. Now, that thinking is being challenged after a new study revealed that the old advice may not be true after all.
According to a group of scientists, eating a big breakfast doesn’t help you eat less during the day, and people who consume food first thing in the morning usually end up eating more calories overall than people who don’t break out the yogurt. However, the study, which was published January 30 in the medical journal the BMJ, does say that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to perfect health.
One of the study’s authors, Flavia Cicuttini, head of the musculoskeletal unit at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, says that you should figure out what fits your lifestyle and health.
“We should not change diets to include breakfast eating in order to lose weight. Do what works best for you,” she said.
The evidence shows that if skipping breakfast works for you and your lifestyle, it may help you control your weight.
“The evidence is that eating breakfast does tend to add to the overall calorie intake of the person and to overall weight gain.”
The study looked at 13 randomized trials over the past 30 years from the U.S. or the U.K. that lasted from a day or up to 16 weeks. People in these trials were of various weights and some ate breakfast, while others skipped it. Overall, the research shows that people who eat breakfast get about 260 more calories per day than people who don’t. Breakfast skippers were about a pound lighter than those who dug in first thing.
In a linked opinion piece on the BMJ, epidemiologist Tim Spector laid out why science seems to have gotten things so wrong in the past. He says that one of the reasons is most of the studies were observational and showed that overweight people generally skipped breakfast more often than average weight people. But, Spector says, these people also tended to be poorer, less educated, and to have a poorer diet overall.
Spector also champions the concept of skipping a meal or restricting eating, a term we usually call fasting, for health.
“Evidence is also accumulating that restricting eating times and increasing fasting intervals can help certain people to lose weight. Some of these recent developments that seem counterintuitive to traditional thinking make sense in the context of the importance of the gut microbiome on human health and metabolism,” he wrote.