Why breakfast may not be best in the battle to lose weight – Australian review

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Skipping breakfast was not linked to people feeling hungrier in the afternoon. ©GettyImages
Skipping breakfast was not linked to people feeling hungrier in the afternoon. ©GettyImages
There is little evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast promotes weight loss or that skipping breakfast leads to weight gain, according to a review from Australia published in The BMJ.

In fact, the findings showed that daily calorie intake was higher in people eating breakfast, and skipping breakfast did not cause greater appetite later in the day.

The researchers stressed that the quality of the studies was low, so the findings should be interpreted with caution, but said their review questioned the popular recommendation that eating breakfast could help with weight control.

Previous studies have suggested that eating breakfast is linked with maintaining a healthy weight, but these findings have been observational and possibly reflect an individual’s wider healthy lifestyle and food choices.

The team from Monash University in Melbourne analysed the effect of regularly eating breakfast on weight change and daily energy intake, based on evidence from 13 randomised controlled trials, mainly in the US and UK, from the last 28 years.

Several trials focused on the relationship between eating or skipping breakfast and changes in body weight, while others looked at the effect of breakfast on daily energy intake.

Participants included habitual/non-habitual breakfast eaters, or both, at a range of body weights who were monitored between 24 hours and 16 weeks.

The researchers found that total daily energy intake was higher in groups who ate breakfast compared with those who skipped it (an average of 260 more calories consumed in a day) regardless of their usual breakfast habits.

Metabolic rates

And the results showed that those who skipped breakfast were on average 0.44 kg lighter.
The effect of breakfast on weight did not differ between people with a normal weight and those who were overweight.
It has previously been suggested that eating breakfast may help with weight loss because of the efficient burning of calories early in the day preventing overeating later on.

But the reviewers found no significant difference in metabolic rates between breakfast eaters and skippers.
And despite common belief, skipping breakfast was not linked to people feeling hungrier in the afternoon - or to differences in energy expenditure.

The authors highlight that because of the varying quality of the studies included, the findings should be interpreted with caution.

However, the paper concludes: This study suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit. Caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect. Further randomised controlled trials of high quality are needed to examine the role of breakfast eating in the approach to weight management.”

Source: BMJ

doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l42

“Effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials”

Authors: Katherine Sievert, et al.

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