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Is Breakfast the Least Important Meal of the Day?

April 21, 2021

If your family was lucky enough to have Disney movie-style breakfasts with eggs, fruit, pancakes, and orange juice then we’re jealous. Normally, it’s a struggle to wake up early enough to have a piece of toast and make coffee before rushing out for work.

Breakfast is also known as the “most important meal of the day," but how true is that statement? Until very recently, it’s been common knowledge. However, some of the research on eating breakfast might be skewed.

Consider a research paper published in 2020 in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. The scientists reviewed 45 studies to see if breakfast impacted weight loss. They found that in the majority of studies, people who skipped breakfast were more likely to be overweight. The results were true across all races, genders, and economic classes. 

That seems pretty conclusive until you read into the studies. They were all observational, which means that the researchers didn’t intervene. They simply asked people how often they ate breakfast, took their weight, and noticed that people who eat breakfast more often tend to weigh less.

Contrast that study with a paper published in the British Medical Journal in 2019. In this study, the researchers sifted through 13 experimental trials. That means they assigned one group to eat breakfast, and the other to skip. In those trials, more often than not the group that skipped breakfast tended to lose weight. 

This tale of dueling studies shows that observational research skews our perspective on breakfast. There’s no doubt that people who eat breakfast tend to weigh less, but why is that? The experimental studies show that eating breakfast isn’t the cause, so what is? A possible explanation is that breakfast is billed as “healthy,” therefore people who are more health-conscious eat it.

While you don’t need to run to the fridge and throw out all your yogurt and eggs, consider that breakfast might not be all it’s cracked up to be. If you usually skip breakfast, try eating a little in the morning. If you like to start the day with a meal, try skipping it for a few days and see how you feel. Notice the changes and see if you like the new way better, or not!

-Henry Halse

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