Do You Really Need to Be Eating Breakfast?

We have long been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but new research suggests otherwise. Two studies published in this month’s issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sought insight to the question “does eating breakfast help with weight loss?” Both study’s results gave a resounding “no,” finding that eating or skipping breakfast made no difference in weight loss.

The main claims to eating breakfast tend to be that it helps with weight loss and boosts metabolism, both refuted by these recent studies. In the first study, titled “The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial,” researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Nutrition Obesity Research Center analyzed overweight and obese adults over a 16-week period, and found that whether or not participants ate breakfast it had “no discernable effect on weight loss in free-living adults who were attempting to lose weight.”

The second study, commonly known as the Bath Breakfast Project, was focused on the effects of eating breakfast versus morning fasting. Separated into to groups, half of them fasted and half of them consumed a morning meal. After six weeks the participants were weighed, and their resting metabolic rates, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were taken. The participants in the study had almost no change across all of those indicators, whether or not they ate breakfast, meaning that there was no real effect on metabolism.

So does this mean that you should give up on breakfast? Well, no, not necessarily. While these studies certainly challenge our commonly held beliefs about breakfast, don’t completely throw out the morning meal just yet. The study found that breakfast eaters expend more energy during their daily physical activities.

What these studies show us is that simply committing to eating breakfast isn’t going to kick start your weight loss. Breakfast is simply part of a well-balanced approach to eating and living a healthy lifestyle.

“It is certainly true that people who regularly eat breakfast tend to be slimmer and healthier but these individuals also typically follow most other recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, so have more balanced diets and take more physical exercise,” said Principal Investigator Dr James Betts in a statement. “Our randomised controlled trial allowed us to find out whether breakfast is a cause, an effect or simply a marker of good health.”

While plenty has been written about the myth of breakfast and weight loss, studies like this shouldn’t be used as fodder for skipping breakfast. They should be used as a jumping off point for thinking of how to eat better, not just in the morning, but at all times of the day.

As nutrition consultant Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago, pointed out to USA Today, the UAB study “didn’t look at what or how much the breakfast eaters were eating.” The study also “didn’t look at benefits beyond weight such as focus, energy levels or appetite and hunger. There are many studies that show an association with healthy weight and breakfast,” Blatner says.

If breakfast is “just another meal” than it should be treated as such — another time of the day to ensure that we eat well and balanced.

Photo Credit: Denna Jones

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jan b.
jan b.about a year ago

It's all about the number of calories consumed in one day vs physical activity. I always believed that to be true. Everyone has to find what works best for them I think.

We all know individuals that eat like there is no tomorrow and are thin. Something is going on with those two glands namely, the thyroid and pituitary gland and if you are unlucky enough not to have them working well.....your metabolism will be running wild.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.about a year ago

I think it is a good idea to have breakfast. I'll never let my son skip breakfast - it is VERY important for kids!

ERIKA SOMLAIabout a year ago

thank you for the article

JM A.about a year ago

I too think it is best to eat when you are hungry and not eat too much at any one setting.
So if you are hungry in the morning, by all means eat some proteinn, fruit & toast maybe.

Karen K.
Karen K.about a year ago

I don't eat breakfast on weekdays, and I don't have issues with weight. But I do try to eat healthy foods and keep active. Eating simple carbs or sugars for breakfast makes one even more hungry than not eating at all until lunch and just adds in calories. But I do like breakfast, even for dinner!

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C.about a year ago

That's funny and weird Joseph. Tried it with another letter but it stayed in the box.

I hardly ever eat breakfast. My stomach does not like breakfast food. I do a lot better with a tomato salad or a vegetable curry for breakfast than a bowl of cereal.

Betty Kelly
Betty Kellyabout a year ago

Different strokes for different folks. Do what you think is best for your body.

Colleen W.
Colleen W.about a year ago

i sometimes have breakfast around 9.30, 10 ish in the morning. I certainly could never eat those huge american meals, a slice of toast or some oats in the winter

Natasha Salgado
Natasha Site problemsabout a year ago

Unbelievable...4 our entire lives it's been shoved down our throats how we're not to miss breakfast...and now this?? Just another sad yet comical example why 95% of studies are useless--totally Bi-Polar.

Araceli Mar
Araceli Marabout a year ago

Can't believe anything you read now-a-days…. I say go with what your body is asking - whether it's breakfast at 3pm or dinner at 6am… food is food and you are the only one who knows what and when your body needs it. Everyone's lifestyle is different… there is no such thing as "general rule" anymore. Forget all these inconclusive studies!!!