Saturday, July 13, 2019

Does skipping breakfast make it harder to lose weight?

The Study
For decades, people trying to lose weight have been told that skipping breakfast will seriously hurt their efforts. A recently published meta-analysis put this theory to the test. A meta-analysis combines the findings from several trials and produces a summary estimate of the results. This particular meta-analysis included 13 randomized trials. The results were both interesting and surprising. There was a slight weight loss benefit to skipping breakfast. Subjects randomized to a breakfast skipping group lost about 1 pound more than subjects randomized to a breakfast eating group. The breakfast skippers also had an average of 260 fewer calories consumed per day. British Medical Journal 2019; 346:142.

Take Home Message
Before we all start skipping breakfast, lets take a deep breath. While this study is interesting, the trials only lasted between 24 hours and 16 weeks. This is a very short time for weight loss studies. If there was a drop in resting metabolic rate with skipping breakfast, it may not appear until after this amount of time. In fact, this paper mentions that longer term observational studies have shown a weight loss benefit to eating breakfast.

Despite these interesting results, I still recommend eating breakfast for the following reasons:

-If you eat dinner at 6 in the evening, skip breakfast the next morning and have lunch at noon, you have gone 18 hours without food. My concern with this amount of time fasting is that your body will go into starvation mode and start to reduce resting metabolic rate. There is evidence in the research literature that fasting can decrease resting energy expenditure, as well as have a number of other effects that decrease weight loss efficacy. (Take a look at some of this research here)

-If you are only eating twice per day, it is really hard to get enough protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals.

-Your mood, focus, energy and attention will be better if you eat breakfast. 

There are lots of good reasons to eat breakfast. Although this is a very interesting study, I wouldn’t let it change your mind about the importance of this meal.

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