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The new breakfast debate

Two new studies into the effects of having breakfast on weight loss and energy balance produced mixed results for breakfast-eaters.

Skipping breakfast doesn’t influence weight loss

The popular belief that eating breakfast is good for weight management has been questioned in a study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

While previous research has suggested that passing up that crucial first meal of the day may actually contribute to weight gain and obesity, this new study has revealed the opposite: starting the day sans brekkie apparently neither helps nor hinders weight loss efforts.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined the impact of a recommendation to eat or skip breakfast, and the impact of switching breakfast eating habits, on weight loss in 309 adults trying to independently lose weight over a 16 week period.

Both groups lost approximately the same amount of weight at the end of the study period.

Study lead author Emily Dhurandhar, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior, said it was important to “test the common recommendation to eat breakfast to ensure this public health message was effective and not misleading about what will and will not help with their weight loss efforts.”

So does this mean dieters can or should skip breakfast? Maybe not. The key finding, that eating breakfast has no differential effect on weight loss generally, doesn’t take into account other health benefits of eating breakfast. Enter study #2.

Benefits of eating breakfast

Another new study — this one out of the U.K. — has indicated that those who do eat breakfast burn more calories and have tighter blood sugar control.

Researchers from the University of Bath examined the effect of daily breakfast consumption versus morning fasting on energy balance.

They found that those who did eat breakfast were likely to burn more calories — not because of reduced snacking and increased metabolic rate but because they were more active.

Over a three year period, people aged between 21 and 60 were randomly allocated into two groups: a fasting group, who consumed no calories until midday every day for six weeks, or a breakfast group, who were prescribed at least 700 kcal by 11 a.m. daily for six weeks, with at least the first half to be consumed within two hours of waking.

Interestingly, this study did not indicate that eating breakfast may facilitate weight management by “kick-starting” the body’s metabolism — a belief commonly held by many of us.

Should I skip breakfast if I want to lose weight?

If you’re trying to lose weight, perhaps you shouldn’t give up on breakfast just yet. It’s important to remember that the researchers still don’t know why eating or skipping breakfast doesn’t influence weight loss.

The safest way to lose weight and maintain a healthy BMI in the long-term is to eat a nutritious diet, free of processed foods and refined sugars, and to exercise regularly to increase the calories you burn through physical activity.

Consuming a nutritious breakfast as part of an overall healthy diet has many benefits that directly impact your health and wellbeing, including that it:

  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Enhances concentration
  • Improves energy levels
  • Helps you to feel full for longer
  • Contributes to a healthy diet

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