Healthy Eating

How important is breakfast to weight loss?

The only way to lose weight is to start the day with a healthy breakfast, right? That’s the notion that health experts have shared with us for years. But it may not be totally accurate.

According to several studies, skipping breakfast may not be so bad for your diet after all. Though earlier studies have found correlations between eating breakfast and weight loss success, few studies have really put this theory to the test in randomized clinical trials. Previous studies have simply asked patients to report on their eating habits and then compared this info with their health records.

A team of researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia reviewed 13 separate studies that each involved participants either skipping or eating breakfast. The length of time for each study ranged from 24 hours to 16 weeks. Some studies concentrated on daily caloric intake and others on weight gain/loss.

After the review, the team determined that people who ate breakfast consumed an average of 260 more calories a day and gained an average of one pound at the end of the studies. Therefore, the results aren’t drastic enough to encourage people one way or the other to eat or skip breakfast.

But one study further explains why eating breakfast is important for other reasons.

Other health factors to consider

In the 16-week study (which was part of the review), 309 overweight and obese participants followed diets that included either eating or skipping breakfast. At the end of 16 weeks, researchers compared the health data from the two groups and found that the dieters who ate breakfast lost no more weight than people who skipped breakfast.

“Previous studies have mostly demonstrated correlation, but not necessarily causation,” said study author Emily Dhurandhar, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at University of Alabama Birmingham. “In contrast, we used a large, randomized controlled trial to examine whether or not breakfast recommendations have a causative effect on weight loss, with weight change as our primary outcome.”

The authors did note however, that while skipping breakfast may not affect weight loss, it may affect other aspects of one’s health that should be considered. The prolonged fasting that occurs when dieters skip breakfast leads to increases in diastolic and systolic blood pressure, blood concentrations of insulin, triglycerides, free fatty acids and LDL-cholesterol, and to decreases in blood concentrations of HDL-cholesterol.

So while passing on breakfast may not hinder your weight loss success, it may still not be great for your overall health. But if you are one of those folks who simply can’t even think about choking down food first thing in the morning, it’s also good news to know that skipping breakfast really won’t affect your ability to stick to a healthy diet.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in June 2014.

How important is breakfast to weight loss?

Several studies serve up advice about the importance of breakfast.

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