The Breakfast

Feasting on the Mythical Magic of Breakfast

Give us our porridge bowl of steel cut oats. It may be “key to living longer,” the BBC tells us. WebMD reports “an abundance of data” to show a link between skipping breakfast and excess weight. But there’s one teensie problem with that assertion – it simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Better Weight Outcomes from Skipping Breakfast

A new paper in the BMJ supports the opposite conclusion. Katherine Sievert and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the effect of eating breakfast on weight and energy intake. They found a small difference in weight outcomes that favored skipping it. In addition, they found lower daily energy intake for the folks who skipped breakfast.

To be sure, these results should be interpreted with caution, says Sievert. Studies were inconsistent and a risk for bias is lurking in them. But without a doubt, blanket statements about breakfast being essential for a healthy weight are misleading.

The Most Important Meal of the Day?

Myths are often impervious to facts. And the mythology of breakfast is powerful, as Tim Spector explains in a BMJ editorial:

The mantra of breakfast being the most important meal of the day has been ingrained in most of us from an early age—from our mother’s mouth as we were late for school to government campaigns to get us to “go to work on an egg.” Over the past 50 years we have been bombarded with messages extolling the health benefits of various processed cereals and porridge oats. The British fry-up is thought by many to be the country’s main contribution to world cuisine.

Around a third of people in developed countries regularly skip breakfast, whereas many others (including myself) enjoy it. This does not mean that all overweight people would benefit from skipping breakfast. Some people are programmed to prefer eating food earlier in the day and others later, which might suit our unique personal metabolism. No “one size fits all,” and prescriptive slow moving diet guidelines filled with erroneous information look increasingly counterproductive and detract from important health messages.

We’ll keep eating our porridge, thank you very much. Only because we like it. We have no illusions that our life depends upon it.

Click here for the Sievert study and here for the Spector commentary. For further perspective, click here.

The Breakfast, painting by Fernand Leger / WikiArt

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February 8, 2019

3 Responses to “Feasting on the Mythical Magic of Breakfast”

  1. February 08, 2019 at 11:33 am, Janice M McSherry said:

    The “most important meal of the day” for me is the one I am eating now. In a few hours it will be lunch and a few hours after that, it will be dinner.

    • February 08, 2019 at 6:46 pm, Ted said:

      Amen, Janice!

  2. February 08, 2019 at 12:14 pm, Allen Browne said:

    Yup – Myths are often impervious to facts.