Skipping Breakfast: No Proof, Plenty of Conviction

A recent analysis of presumptions about skipping breakfast prompted ConscienHealth to see how much those presumptions have influenced beliefs of the general public and healthcare professionals. In their analysis, David Allison and colleagues from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found that an unproven presumption — skipping breakfast causes weight gain — has infiltrated both expert advice and scientific literature. So we surveyed beliefs of the general public, physicians, registered nurses, and nutrition professionals.

We found that the experts — healthcare professionals — expressed more certainty about this uncertain presumption than the general public.

Graph: Skipping Breakfast

Utilizing Google Surveys, we collected responses from 1,227 individuals projectable to the general public of U.S. adults (ages 18+) and from 765 healthcare professionals — 42% physicians, 37% registered nurses, and 21% nutrition professionals. Participation was voluntary and anonymous via the Internet.

As you can see in the graph above, the primary difference between healthcare professionals and the general public was that healthcare professionals were less likely to respond that they are “not sure” whether it’s true that skipping breakfast causes weight gain.

This might explain why the UAB researchers found so many experts presenting this presumption as a fact, even though existing evidence could neither prove nor disprove it. One might say this contributes to the burden of distracting and pointless advice about nutrition and obesity. Commenting on this concern, Andrew Brown, lead author of the UAB study said:

People can only hold on to so many nutritional rules at one time. We have to ask, is there something more important that they could have communicated instead?

Click here and here to read more about the UAB study. Click here to read more about the Google Surveys methodology.

Confident Emperor, photograph © Jurij Skoblenko / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.