New study: breakfast is very overrated

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Overrated?

We’ve all heard it: Breakfast is “the most important meal of the day”. Especially if you want to lose weight, you should make sure you eat breakfast. This is a belief that is supported by about zero hard science, and it makes just about no sense at all. Why would anyone lose weight by making sure they eat more?

A new high-quality (RCT) study tested the concept. Forty-nine women who did not usually eat breakfast were randomized to one of two groups: keep skipping breakfast, or start eating it. They were then followed for four weeks to see what happened.

According to conventional wisdom the people who started to eat breakfast would miraculously start losing weight and feeling great. But that’s not what the study found.

The women who started to eat breakfast…

  1. Ate more food in total over the day
  2. Ate more carbs in total
  3. Finally, not surprisingly, they gained weight

Nobody should be surprised. Feel free to eat breakfast if you’re hungry and it makes you feel good. But there’s no need to eat breakfast, and it’s certainly not going to help you lose weight.

It’s perfectly OK to break your fast (“break fast”) by eating lunch instead…

How to NOT eat breakfast

What is Fasting? – Dr. Jason Fung
Breakfast! Is It Really That Important? – Dr. Jason Fung

More

Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

Suggestions IF you’re hungry for breakfast

All Low-Carb Breakfasts

10 comments

  1. Madeline
    When I was college, due to lack of funds and rush for morning classes, I skipped breakfast and just ate lunch and dinner. That was also the time when my weight was the lowest it had been despite not exercising at all. Once I started working, I started to eat breakfast and that was when I started gaining weight. Now with all the new research about the benefits of fasting and skipping breakfast. I finally understood why I was able to keep my weight during college because I was doing something similar to the 16:8 fast daily!
  2. SGK
    My interpretation of the guidelines saying you should never skip breakfast is that those advocating breakfast take it for granted that if you do not eat breakfast you will inevitably overeat later that day. It is not really the breakfast that is necessery, but the "fact" that skipping it will result in overeating that is the problem. But that is seldom or never clearly stated. Those giving the guidelines seem to be underestimating people's ability to think (and act) for themselves, I would say.
  3. ksv
    Nope! Me and a couple of friends tested skipping breakfast vs skipping dinner.
    Skipping breakfast gave no to negative results on weight, while skipping dinner gave great results.
    Minimizing dinner is generally a very good way to manage weight.
    For at least some people, skipping breakfast may be a very bad advice.
    The woman in the study did not loose weight by ADDING food to their daily menu, that is hardly a surprise.
    Reply: #4
  4. SGK
    I don't think this post is about advicing people to skip breakfast, I think its message is that if you don't feel like eating breakfast, you really don't have to.

    If you eat breakfast and that benefits you, you should by all means continue to do so.

    Personally, I'd rather eat at bigger dinner than eat breakfast, and since that works for me I can continue to do so without being concerned.

  5. Low Carb Finn
    ksv: People are different.

    I get nauseous if I try to eat anything solid for the first 4-5 hours after getting up in the morning. The last place where I did eat breakfast was training seminars (martial art 5-7 days x 9 hours per day). When I finally tried to start my morning on training seminar with just my normal coffee+full cream+butter, I was overjoyed that my training got better - whole 3 hours of training before lunch without feeling bloated and nauseous.

    Hunter-gatherers typically eat most of their calories in the evening, because the daytime is spent hunting and gathering. Perhaps some leftovers from previous night are eaten in the morning, but if there's none, it's enough to pick a couple of berries during the day or eat a juicy grub etc.

    My body wants me to eat no breakfast and my body wants me to eat most of my calories in the evening. ( My first solid food about 4-6 hours after waking up is my lightest and carb-richest meal of the day). I eat like this, because my body insists on it. No weight problems whatsoever.

    I have no reference, because I don't have the book at hand and the reference is there, but one Finnish book about paleo mentions, that regardless of the timing of your meals, the secretion of digestive enzymes etc. is the best in the evening. 200 000 years as hunter-gatherers versus 10 000 years of agriculture...

  6. David Vitale
    Low Carb Finn with the humble brag post of the day. Settle down Karate kid.
  7. N
    Years ago, I wouldn't eat until 10am whereby I would be starving and drink sweet milkshakes. I was overweight. I then started having bran flakes for beakfast and my weight went down a little bit over weight. I then started breastfeeding, woken at 5 am would have breakfast. Then, last year had a few weeks no breakfast and my weight dramatically decreased, my appetite during the day was much reduced although my hunger increased. I couldn't sustain it though, as I'm very grumpy in the am, but now considering giving up again, especially after reading the above.

    Individual though, my hubby skips breakfast the. Is starving by 11 am and goes for bacon sandwiches, pizzas!

  8. Liz
    I have been on this regime for a couple of months now and was doing fairly well. Sticking very closely to the guidelines - I don't snack and generally eat 3 meals a day but was losing weight very very slowly. I am turning 70 this year if that makes any difference. This week I skipped breakfast for 2 days in a row. I felt empty but only had my normal salad for lunch. I gained a 1kg! Nothing else was different. I am very frustrated - even my husband looses so much more than me and we are eating the same things. I am determined to continue but loosing heart and I only have a 5 Kgs to lose to get to my goal weight.
    Any suggestions?
    Reply: #10
  9. Endrocrinogist
    1 rct study with n=49 = high quality study? [insert joke] Stick to nephrology.
  10. Someone
    I'm no expert, so everything I say is just speculation. Although you don't snack, you still eat 3 meals a day. These meals could exceed the amount of calories you are required to intake for your body(so you aren't losing anything). If that's not so, then maybe you eat your meals too quickly and aren't digesting thoroughly, which impacts how the food is stored in your body. You are also 70, so that means your metabolism is low, therefore you are losing weight slower than you used to when you were young. Men also tend to lose more weight than women in general, so it's not anything specific that you are doing per say. I would recommend checking out the intermediate fasting lifestyle. People eat within a small period of time during the day, which cuts the calorie intake and also forces your body to burn more of your stored fats rather than the food you are eating that day. A a warning. See your doctor though before changing your eating habits. Good luck!!

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