The Science of Skipping Breakfast: Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

You’ve probably had someone tell you that “skipping breakfast is bad” and that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Perhaps that person was your mother or your spouse.

Many people hold religiously to the idea that breakfast is of the utmost importance and that skipping it is tantamount to chopping years off your life. Others remain firmly in the breakfast-skipping camp, happily carrying on with their lives free from a morning meal of cereal or oatmeal.

Skipping Breakfast May Be OK

Science has lent some credence to the breakfast skipper’s refusal to cave to their peer’s admonitions: recent research shows that it’s probably OK to go without breakfast. In one study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, 300 volunteers who were trying to lose weight were instructed to either eat breakfast or skip it entirely. At the end of the study, there was no significant difference in the weight loss results between the two groups.

Other studies, as reported by Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times, also support the idea that skipping breakfast isn’t bad for your health. As she put it, “If you like breakfast, fine; but if not, don’t sweat it.”

Conflicting Data

Writing for The Atlantic, James Hamblin pointed out that science on the matter of breakfast has been starkly divided. Some studies indicate that eating breakfast helps lower the risk of heart disease. In fact, WebMD has an article titled “Why Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day.”
It makes sense that children need breakfast to perform well at school. What that breakfast includes is probably more important that whether or not it’s eaten in the first place. Sugary cereals are not very likely to prepare a child for a good day at school as they will produce an almost instant sugar spike, followed by a lull in energy and cravings for more sugary items.
It’s actually much better to go with whole grains, lean protein and a fruit or vegetable. Eating a meal comprised of these food items will help maintain a more stable glucose level, a feeling of being fuller for longer and will help control any cravings for sugar laden snacks.

As far as weight gain goes, a study at the University of Bath showed that people who eat breakfast consume more calories than those who skip it. It’s long been a widely held belief that the breakfast-eaters would gain more weight as a result, but the same study also showed that breakfast-skippers burned fewer calories throughout the day. Therefore the effects between the two groups evened out.
There’s been a prevalent myth that skipping breakfast causes you to consume more calories later in the day. The idea is that you’ll end up being so ravenous that you’ll consume larger quantities of food for lunch and dinner. However, the research just doesn’t support this claim.

Quality of Breakfast Counts More Than Whether You Skip It or Not

It’s a little silly to discuss whether skipping breakfast is bad for you without considering the quality of that breakfast in the first place. If you eat a breakfast high in sugar and trans fat, like pancakes with butter, cream and syrup, with a side of eggs and bacon, is that really better than eating no breakfast at all?

So it logically follows that skipping breakfast may be OK—as long as the other meals you eat are of a high nutritional quality.
Now you don’t have to let others guilt you into eating breakfast if you’re one of those people who prefer to skip it. Just try to eat a balanced, nutritious diet for the rest of the day. Check in with our blog regularly for more helpful health and fitness articles. You can also keep your finances in shape by visiting our services page for information regarding insurance quotes, bill pay and tax preparation.

How do you feel about skipping breakfast? Were you raised on the mantra that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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