Photo: avlxyz, Flickr
No breakfast, no weight gain? Not buying it.
That sound you hear is eyebrows rising on more than a few nutrition and obesity experts. A new German study is challenging one of the most basic and longstanding tenets about weight and eating: that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Researchers at Technical University of Munich found that people who ate more food for breakfast didn't cut their calorie intake at other meals to compensate – they simply ate more.
The researchers looked at 380 subjects -- 280 obese and 100 normal weight -- who kept track of what they ate for about two weeks. Breakfast foods varied, but when subjects, normal or obese, ate at least 400 additional calories for breakfast, they wound up eating 400 more calories for the day.
"Reduced breakfast energy intake is associated with lower total daily intake," the study's conclusion said as reported in Nutrition Journal. "The influence of the ratio of breakfast to overall energy intake largely depends on the post-breakfast rather than breakfast intake pattern. Therefore, overweight and obese subjects should consider the reduction of breakfast calories as a simple option to improve their daily energy balance."
James Hill, an obesity expert at the University of Colorado at Denver and executive director of its new Anschutz Health and Wellness Center was on the obesity epidemic warpath long before it entered the popular lexicon. He is having none of it.
"I'm not buying it on the strength of one study," he said. "There's nothing in this study that would cause me to change my advice to people that eating breakfast is one of the most important things you can do for your health and your weight."
Christie Munsell, a research assistant at the Rudd Center for Obesity at Yale University,
said she too was surprised. "It's necessary in the morning to eat in order to replenish the glucose stores we've lost overnight," she said also pointing out breakfast's role in improving mood, productivity and memory.
And she said it's not just how much you eat, it's what. The study said the additional breakfast calories came from bread, eggs, cake, yogurt, cheese, sausage, marmalade and butter -- not exactly the high fiber-plus-protein Munsell and others typically recommend.
Munsell and Hill both cited years and years of studies that show a strong relationship between eating breakfast and reducing "core intake" for the rest of the day by spreading out calories.
In fact, Hill said, in his decades of experience, many of the obese people he sees have a habit of skipping breakfast and doing most of their eating late in the day. That pattern, he said, correlates to the body storing extra calories.
"We have to bring a little bit of rational thinking to this," he said of the study. "I'm not saying go out and gorge yourself with breakfast; that's not the right thing to do. I don't think people are going gain weight because they're over-eating at breakfast."
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