Eating breakfast is linked with greater daily calorie intake and slightly higher body weight on average, according to results of a new review of clinical studies.
The review found a subtle difference in body weight between those who ate breakfast and those who skipped the first meal of the day. The fact that those who missed breakfast were on average lighter than those that had breakfast suggests that encouraging people to eat breakfast may not be founded on solid principles.
Breakfast has often been said to be “the most important meal of the day”, but the team of Australian researchers found that eating in the morning tended to result in having more calories per day which corresponded to a one-pound (0.5 kg) greater body weight on average.
Senior author, Professor Flavia Cicuttini, head of the musculoskeletal unit at Monash University in Melbourne, said: “The evidence is that eating breakfast does tend to add to the overall calorie intake of the person and to overall weight gain.
“We should not change diets to include breakfast eating in order to lose weight. Do what works best for you.”
Prof Cicuttini’s review involved looking at 13 randomised controlled trials that took place in the USA and the UK over the past three decades. The study participants were of various weights and had different eating patterns. Some regularly ate breakfast and some never did.
Overall, the research team found breakfast eaters consumed 260 more calories on average throughout the day than those who went without breakfast. This would indicate that non-breakfast eaters did not eat significantly more in the day to compensate for missing a meal.
However, the authors said the overall quality of the studies was low and more research into the subject would be beneficial.
The authors concluded: “While breakfast has been advocated as the most important meal of the day in the media since 1917, there is a paucity of evidence to support breakfast consumption as a strategy to achieve weight loss, including in adults with overweight or obesity.”
The findings have been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).