Word on the street is breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but to what extent is this true? A new study suggests it actually depends on the breakfast’s size, so maybe it’s time to reconsider having that endless Sunday brunch special… every morning of the week.

The study followed the food diaries of nearly 400 individuals for two weeks and found people tended to eat the same size lunch and dinner regardless of how many calories were consumed in the morningImpact of breakfast on daily energy intake. Schusdziarra, V., Hausmann, M., Wittke, C. et al. Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany. Nutrition Journal, 2011, 10:5.

Big Time Breakfast — Analysis

The study claims eating a significantly bigger breakfast may not reduce food intake later in the day and could simply add that many more calories to total consumptionImpact of breakfast on daily energy intake. Schusdziarra, V., Hausmann, M., Wittke, C. et al. Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany. Nutrition Journal, 2011, 10:5. Rocket science this is not.

The study’s findings, however, have been cited as justification for skipping breakfast. But research has linked skipping breakfast to obesityAssociation between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. Ma, Y., Bertone, E., Staneck, EJ., et al. Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2003; 158(1): 85-92, increased risk of heart disease and diabetesSkipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study. Smith, KJ, Gall, SL, McNaughton, SA, et al. Menzies Research Institute, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010 Jun;110(6):869-78., as well as overall poorer eating habits, from higher caloric intake at nighttimeRelationships between physical activity, obesity and meal frequency in adolescents. Mota, J., Fidalgo, F., Silva, R., et al. Research Centre in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, Faculty of Sports, Porto University, Portugal. Annals of Human Biology, 2008 Jan-Feb;35(1): 1-10. to an increased intake of dietary fatEating Patterns, Dietary Quality and Obesity. Nicklas, TA., Baranowski, T., Cullen, KW., et al. Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2001; 20(6), 599-608.. A six-year, population-based survey of 16,452 people suggests skipping breakfast is not an effective way to manage weightThe Effect of Breakfast Type on Total Daily Energy Intake and Body Mass Index: Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Cho, S., Dietrich, M., Brown, C, et al. Kellogg-USA, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2003; 22(4): 296-302.. Eating breakfast, these studies advise, isn’t necessarily about the idea of taking in calories earlier in the day in order to eat less total. Instead, they recommend eating early to fuel up and start the day right.

Furthermore, the study does not explicitly recommend skipping breakfast. Instead, it suggests being mindful of breakfast portion size, and quality really is key (after all, the study’s participants’ most popular food choices were breads and cakes, breakfast foods high in simple carbohydrates)ref:1. It’s impact throughout the day will likely vary depending on the type of foods consumedDoes consuming breakfast influence activity levels? An experiment into the effect of breakfast consumption on eating habits and energy expenditure.Halsey LG, Huber JW, Low T, et al. Department of Life Sciences, Roehampton University, Holybourne Avenue, London. Public Health Nutr. 2011 Jun 23:1-8.. Ultimately, eating breakfast is a choice, but so is what one eats for it!

“Skipping breakfast is the worst idea a person can have. Breakfast ignites your metabolic rate and allows your brain to function properly throughout the day because of glucose. Since your brain runs on glucose (sugars) it will allow for a sharper, more engaged and more productive brain function throughout your workday.Eating the correct foods for breakfast is the most important part: LARGE portions of protein and functional carbs to allow you to feel more full throughout the day.”



Though a new study suggests big breakfasts may be linked to bigger waistlines, think twice about skipping breakfast because of it.

Updated August 2011