For years, the status of breakfast as a meal essential for a healthy diet has been a fixture in people’s minds.
Whether that’s because the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends breakfast as being essential for a healthy start to the day, or it’s because your parents ingrained it in your mind, the truth stands.
Everyone thinks skipping breakfast is dangerous to your health.
Not so fast.
Several years ago, I began to explore the value in skipping meals and the possible therapeutic benefits.
And what I discovered then, and what subsequent research has continued to confirm, is breakfast isn’t nearly as important as we’re led to believe.
Don’t worry. Breakfast isn’t unhealthy...but it’s also not the keystone to a healthy diet either.
The common belief is if you skip breakfast in the morning, it’s going to make you eat more later in the day. People think if you go into lunch and dinner hungry, you’ll end up eating more. And the fear is this will make you gain weight and develop unhealthy eating patterns.
But that’s not what the research shows, the most recent of which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In fact, research seems to indicate skipping breakfast might actually be good for some people.
In a study of 40 teenage girls (whose appetite is known to be voracious, thanks to the caloric requirements associated with growing) it was discovered those who ended up skipping breakfast consumed 350 calories less through the day than the subjects who ate a full breakfast.
The subjects in the study were ages 11-15. Each of the subjects ate in two distinctly different ways to isolate how breakfast affects later caloric consumption.
To start with, the girls ate a breakfast made specifically to have a low impact on their glycemic index. The breakfast was 468 calories in total. They ate this breakfast for several days before switching over to an eating protocol where they simply did not eat breakfast.
The researchers’ stated goal was to “examine the effect of 3 consecutive days of breakfast consumption compared with breakfast omission on free-living energy intake and physical activity in adolescent girls.”
After they ate breakfast, the participants were then asked to keep a journal that kept track of their eating habits throughout the day. Their physical activity levels were monitored with an accelerometer.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted on days when the subjects skipped breakfast altogether, their ending caloric totals were 353 calories fewer than when they had breakfast.
What’s more interesting is even though they skipped breakfast, and missed out on those 458 calories in the morning, their physical activity levels weren’t affected in the slightest.
This bodes well for people who want to lose weight and still maintain a healthy lifestyle in the process.
What the researchers don’t know is why exactly this happens. They’re not quite sure what the correlation is between skipping breakfast and not eating more later during the day.
As study co-author Dr. Keith Tolfrey said, “There are many reports that show missing breakfast is associated with obesity, which may have led to premature assumptions that breakfast can be used as an intervention for weight control…
But we do not know why eating breakfast is associated with a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese, or whether eating breakfast can be used effectively as a weight control strategy…
Further research will help to determine whether daily breakfast consumption can be used as an intervention to reduce future disease risk in young people,” concludes Dr. Tolfrey.
If you’re interested to see other science on how skipping meals positively influences health, then check out the video on intermittent fasting below, which gives you an understanding of why skipping meals may benefit your health.