Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so goes the old adage. However, in today’s fast-paced society, people are cutting corners at every turn to save some time. One of these oft-cut corners during the morning rush is breakfast.
While some individuals skip breakfast in an effort to curb their daily calorie intake and thus lose weight, others simply don’t give themselves enough time in the morning before they’re off for the day. Whatever the case, research suggests breakfast skippers are doing more damage than good.
For example, many cross-sectional findings have suggested that breakfast skipping is associated with a higher body weight. However, due to the nature of the analysis it is difficult to ascertain what preceded what: the excess weight or the skipping breakfast.
A new study in the International Journal of Obesity evaluated the prospective relationship between skipping breakfast and change in weight over a 2 year period among 68,606 Chinese grade school children.
Of all the kids assessed, approximately 5% of both the boys and girls were skipping breakfast. As suggested by prior studies, when assessed at one time-point those who were skipping breakfast also tended to be heavier.
In the prospective analises, the authors found that those kids who were skipping breakfast in grade 4 tended to gain significantly more weight by grade 6 than those who ate breakfast. This observation was particularly strong among kids who also skipped lunch.
That is, kids who skipped breakfast and also lunch had the highest risk of gaining weight over the 2 year follow-up period.
I realize it is a bit counter-intuitive that skipping meals, therefore cutting calorie intake would result in weight gain rather than loss, but there are a few plausible reasons for such an observation.
For example, it has been suggested that breakfast-skippers are more likely to eat between meals and also that these in-between-meals tend to be of high fat/sugar/calorie composition. I know from personal experience that when on occasion I would miss breakfast, by the time 10:30am came around I was ravenous with particular craving for specific foods, namely of the greasy, high-calorie variety.
Alternatively, kids and adults who skip breakfast may be less likely to be physically active throughout the day, thereby reducing caloric expenditure.
Whatever the mechanism, one thing is certain: skipping breakfast is not likely to have the intended result of reduced body weight.
Tin, S., Ho, S., Mak, K., Wan, K., & Lam, T. (2011). Breakfast skipping and change in body mass index in young children International Journal of Obesity DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2011.58