Another Reason Breakfast is Too Awesome To Skip

Breakfast has long been called the most important meal. A new study has found that skipping breakfast can lead to weight gain. Not only are those who forego the first meal of the day more likely to eat a bigger lunch, but to choose foods that are more unhealthy and higher in fats.

For the study, which was presented at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, Tony Goldstone of the MRC Clinical Science Centre at Imperial College London scanned the brains of 21 men and women around the age of 25 on two different days. Both times, the participants were shown pictures of food (chocolate, pizza, vegetables, fish) and asked to rate how appealing they found the items.

On one day, the participants did not eat breakfast before they had their brains scanned. On the other day, they were given a 750 calorie breakfast of cereals and jam (a little heavy on the carbohydrates, I might say!) an hour before the brain scans. On both days, the participants were given lunch after the scans and told they could eat as much as they wished.

Goldstone found that, when participants had not eaten breakfast, they rated the high-calorie foods as more appealing and also ate about 20 percent more for lunch.  When they went breakfastless, the participants’ brain scans differed, showing that “activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, which is just above the eyes, was especially responsive to high-calorie foods.” As Goldstone says in the Guardian, the belief is that this region of the brain “encodes the value of rewards – how rewarding, how pleasant, how tasty something is. Not just food but other rewards seem to be signalled there in the brain.”

Moreover, the researchers found that activity in the orbitofrontal cortex increases the more you like the food that you’re eating and decreases when you are told to restrict your desire for tasty (high fat) foods.

Evolution and Fasting: Why We Don’t First Reach For Lettuce

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that prolonged fasting would lead to certain of our brain regions sending out signals for us to seek higher calorie foods. As Goldstone observes, doing so “makes evolutionary sense if you’re in a negative energy-balance situation. You’re not going to waste your time going for lettuce.”

Rather, you’re going to search out the foods that offer you a quicker “fix,” to restore your energy.

Why Breakfast Is The Most Important Meal of the Day

Goldstone’s findings provide evidence for how skipping meals can actually lead to dieters gaining weight over time. It would be well for public health officials seeking to curb rising rates of obesity in adults and in children to consider his study.

It is also oft-noted that children who skip breakfast perform less well in school, struggle more with attention in class and so forth; could doing so also be putting them even more at risk for obesity? Well-intentioned federal policies have led to an overhaul of lunches in public schools with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and with restrictions on calories and fat. But there have been reports of students tossing out undesired healthy food and (if I may refer to the behaviors I routinely observe in my college students), their first food choice once getting out of school is not likely to be a nice crisp apple but something full of sugar, sodium and, yes, fat in neon-bright packaging.

Goldstone’s study suggests that, when it comes to issues of weight and eating, we may be more the creatures of long-ago evolutationary adaptions than we, living a sedentary 21st century lifestyle, may care to admit. His findings do offer yet another reason to start your day if not with some “food product” like this, but with a good meal — though maybe a more-balanced one than the cereals, breads and jams the researchers offered the study’s participants.

Related Care2 Coverage

Why You Just Can’t “Work Off” That Ice Cream Sundae

Lunch Lady Told To Stop Cooking Delicious Food

Why Are Kids Eating School Lunch At 9:45?


Photo by fiverlocker


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W4 years ago

I've experimented with myself on this subject many times, but still get the same result.

In spite of a breakfast of 3 oz. of a whole-grain cereal, organic yogurt and fresh fruit, I was still hungry ALL day. I don't work any differently. I do gain weight.

I normally don't eat anything until around 3-4 in the afternoon.(I wake around 7 every day). Then I'm usually hungry for a bit of fruit or veggie and a small amount of protein like an ounce of cheese or turkey. Then a healthy dinner around 7-8 and then bed around 10-11. This has been my routine for the past 20 yrs. now and my weight has essentially stayed the same, even through menopause. Had the blood sugar checked and that's in the cool column too.

I don't think these scientists are looking deeply enough as to why I and others are like this.
Of course, no one has been able to explain to me why my grade-point average went up 50% after I started smoking weed either. They simply tell me "I'm Wrong."
And so it goes . . . . .
This is why I tend to question even those who are the so-called "experts".

I ignored them, treated my dog's kidney failure myself, and my dog has embarrassed 5 vets who declared my dog practically DOA! That's right! He was supposed to be dead a year ago and he would've been if I'd done what the vets said to do which was to restrict protein.
Do Your Own Research!

rene davis
irene davis4 years ago

porridge eater day in day out-low gi!

Carol M.
carol m4 years ago


Bernadette Millar

i always skip breakfast i never have time to eat anything in the morning

Stella Gamboni
Stella Gamboni4 years ago

A good breakfast for me usually consists of a slice of cold pizza or whatever's leftover from last night's dinner. Maybe not the most traditional or nutritious choices but at least it's breakfast and -- in light of this article -- may be the reason I don't have weight issues.

a             y m.
g d c4 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)

Kalinka Poprawski

interesting article