No evidence that breakfast is most important meal of the day, says review

Skipping breakfast does not automatically result in weight gain, according to new findings

Previous studies have suggested eating breakfast is linked with maintaining a healthy weight, but these findings were observational and possibly reflect an individual’s wider healthy lifestyle. Photograph: iStock

Previous studies have suggested eating breakfast is linked with maintaining a healthy weight, but these findings were observational and possibly reflect an individual’s wider healthy lifestyle. Photograph: iStock

 

Claims that breakfast is the most important meal of the day are not sustained by scientific evidence, new research suggests.

There is no good evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast promotes weight loss or that skipping breakfast leads to weight gain, according to a review published in the BMJ.

The findings show daily calorie intake was higher in people eating breakfast and that skipping breakfast does not cause greater appetite later in the day.

Previous studies have suggested eating breakfast is linked with maintaining a healthy weight, but these findings were observational and possibly reflect an individual’s wider healthy lifestyle and food choices.

A team from Monash University in Melbourne analysed the effect of regularly eating breakfast on weight change and daily energy intake, based on evidence from 13 trials, mainly in the US and UK, from the last 28 years.

Results

The researchers found total daily energy intake was higher in groups who ate breakfast compared with those who skipped it (an average of 260 more calories consumed in a day) regardless of their usual breakfast habits.

The results showed that those who skipped breakfast were on average 0.44 kg lighter.

The effect of breakfast on weight did not differ between people with a normal weight and those who were overweight.

It has previously been suggested that eating breakfast may help with weight loss because of the efficient burning of calories early in the day preventing overeating later on. But the reviewers found no significant difference in metabolic rates between breakfast eaters and skippers.

The researchers stress that the quality of studies was low, so the findings should be interpreted with caution, but say that their review questions the popular recommendation that eating breakfast can help with weight control.