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Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

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Do you eat breakfast in the morning? While some people may enjoy ‘breaking their fast’ first thing in the morning, others may prefer having their first meal at lunch. But can this preference affect your health?

Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day. The idea being that you need a satisfying breakfast to fuel you for the day ahead and that by skipping it you’re prone to overeating and weight gain. It’s partly for this reason that some also suggest that eating breakfast can be helpful if you’re looking to lose weight. But is this true?

A recent study by a group of Australian researchers set out to challenge this claim by pointing out that it was based on the results of observational studies, which can often be biased. They collated all the studies that had investigated this link and then set out to review the evidence.

The study

The research was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials that had looked at the effect of regular breakfast consumption on weight change and daily energy intake.

Studies were included in the review if they compared the effect of eating breakfast to not eating or skipping breakfast and included a measure of body weight or energy intake that was either measured or self-reported. Overall, 13 studies met the inclusion criteria and 12 were included in the meta-analysis.

What did they find?

Results from the meta-analysis found that overall, there was no evidence to support the claim that eating breakfast promoted weight loss or that skipping breakfast led to weight gain. They also found that if you ate breakfast, this led to an increased daily energy intake compared to if you skipped breakfast. There was no evidence to suggest that skipping breakfast led you to eat more for the rest of the day.

These findings support research conducted on intermittent fasting, a type of eating pattern where you abstain from eating for a set period. It’s sometimes claimed that fasting increases your hunger so that you overeat later during the day, but this isn’t the case. In fact, alongside a low carb diet, intermittent fasting has been found to be an effective weight loss tool as during the fasted state, insulin levels decrease and the body switches to using fat for fuel.

What can we take from this?

The bottom line is that breakfast shouldn’t be viewed as more important than any other meal and there’s no need to force yourself to eat breakfast if you’re not hungry.

The evidence doesn’t support the claim that you need to eat breakfast to lose weight and if you’re someone that skips breakfast this won’t necessarily lead you to overeat later in the day. In fact, if you’re looking to lose weight, research has found that intermittent fasting could be an effective weight loss tool.



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