I like breakfast. At least I’ve learned to like it. Or rather, learned to eat it. Beans on toast, that’s probably the best thing I can think of for breakfast. Followed by quite a bit of coffee. I like strawberries, too. In all honesty though, truly, if I could leave breakfast alone and just have lunch later on, I’d be happier for it. But, as we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
‘Breaking the fast’
We’ve been sleeping all night, we wake up, and our bodies need food, right? We used up a lot of energy while sleeping so it’s time to replace it, and quickly! So quickly we think that we need to stuff anything into our mouths and what could solve that problem better than a big bowl of sugary cereal or a muffin on the way out the door? Is breakfast so important that any food as soon as we wake is better than no food?
Many studies have made associations between eating breakfast and lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, reduced chances of getting diabetes and heart disease, improved concentration, and, as we’ve all heard, eating breakfast is key to maintaining weight loss. But, as with any study of this sort, it’s hard to know if breakfast causes them improvements or if people who eat breakfast have other habits that make them healthier.
Another study tried to figure this out. The researchers looked at 52 obese women on a 12-week weight loss program where each woman ate the same number of calories but half had breakfast and the other half didn’t. It turned out that having breakfast didn’t cause weight loss, what caused the weight loss was changing their routine. Women, who before the study ate breakfast, lost 8.9kg (19.6 lbs) when they stopped having breakfast (compared to 6.2kg (13.7 lbs) in the breakfast group). Women who had usually skipped breakfast lost 7.7kg (17 lbs) when they started eating breakfast – and lost 6kg (13.2 lbs) when they continued to skip breakfast. That shows there isn’t a real link between skipping breakfast and weight loss.
High protein. High sugar. Low sugar. To skip or not to skip? If you don’t like breakfast and want to lose weight, you might consider intermittent fasting.
Skipping breakfast, by only eating between 9:00am and 3:00pm, has been found to be beneficial by improving blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity while decreasing blood pressure.
Other people say, if intermittent fasting is good for you, does that mean breakfast is bad for you? Some research points to eating early causing our cortisol to peak early leaving to insulin resistance and diabetes over time. Other research says it’s normal for cortisol to peak early in the day and that you need breakfast, carbohydrates in particular to trigger a response to insulin.
Yet another study says that dinner is more important than breakfast depending on the time of day you eat: if you skip breakfast and eat dinner at a normal time (getting the benefits of intermittent fasting) or if you skip breakfast and eat dinner late. Those who eat dinner later have higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity because blood sugar control is best in the morning and so it’s better to have a big meal earlier in the day.
There’s a lot of conflicting evidence out there. But it appears that breakfast is most important for people who are hungry when they wake up! So, listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. If you have diabetes, you’ll need to have a breakfast of foods with a low glycemic index (GI), such as porridge, which is cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels. This is good advice for anyone! Eating a donut or a sugary cereal for breakfast is not going to help with weight loss or with chronic health conditions. Blood glucose level is probably the most important thing to keep in mind whether you eat breakfast or not, and what you have to eat when you do. Regular meals of whole, unprocessed foods throughout the day is important for keeping blood sugar stable and that is what helps control weight and hunger. It’s not particularly about eating breakfast early, it’s about not eating dinner late. Your heart will thank you.
Dr. James Kneller treats atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions. He is an internationally recognized authority on cardiovascular health and personal development.
Schlundt, D.G., Hill, J.O., Sbrocco, T., Pope-Cordle, J., &Sharp, T.(1992).The role of breakfast In the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 55 (3)1. pp 645–651.
Zilberter, T., &Zilberter, E.Y. (2014).Breakfast: to skip or not to skip?Frontiers in Public Health. 2:59.