Charles III in May 2022 before Parliament

Eat Breakfast Like a King?

Will we ever tire of debating the value of eating breakfast for keeping our weight in check? So far, it seems not. In fact, people seem to be rehashing the same old arguments yet again, based on the results from a new study in Cell Metabolism. Is it a good idea to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper? Reading the rash of stories from this latest studiy, you can find a spin that supports whatever view you wish to take.

For careful observers, these divergent interpretations should offer a hint that whatever differences that breakfast might make, it’s probably not profound and may not be the same for everyone.

A Randomized Crossover Study

This was a small and well-controlled RCT with with a crossover design. That means that each person in the study served as their own control. In this study everyone got all their food and beverages from the research center. Every subject followed each of two regimens for four weeks in a random order. One regimen was morning loaded – i.e., breakfast like a king. On the other regimen, subject got the largest portion of their daily calories in the evening.

In sum, it made no difference in energy metabolism or weight loss for people to get their calories loaded more into the morning than into the evening. With the morning-loaded regimen, people did report less hunger through the day. But for weight loss, which these regimens were both designed to support, the outcomes were the same.

Eye of the Beholder

What’s really interesting about this study is the range of different interpretations that surface from it. The researchers tell us “the time of day you eat your biggest meal has little effect” for weight loss. This comes from an explanation for a broad audience they published in The Conversation.

Yet the BBC and the Independent both tell us that this study means that big breakfasts are better for controlling appetite. In fact, the Independent says they are “the key.”

So you can believe whatever you want. Some people have a natural inclination to eat a substantial breakfast. Others simply don’t feel the need. Listening to what your body is telling you might be a good place to start. From there, if a person is struggling to find a healthy pattern for eating, a skilled dietitian might be a big help.

But if someone tells you there’s only one right answer for the role of breakfast in health and weight management, you would be right to be skeptical.

Click here for the new study and here for the further discussion in The Conversation.

Charles III in May 2022 before Parliament, photograph © UK House of Lords 2022, photography by Annabel Moeller, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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September 19, 2022