By Philippa Roxby
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but eating it won’t help you lose weight, research suggests.
Those who ate breakfast consumed 260 more calories per day and gained 1lb more than those who skipped it, a review of previous studies found.
But experts say a healthy breakfast can be a good source of calcium and fibre.
It has also been shown to improve concentration and attention levels, particularly in children.
Breakfast gives you energy, stops you snacking later in the day and supplies essential nutrients – so we are told.
Its reputation as the nutritional backstop to our day stems from observational studies showing a positive link between people eating breakfast and having a healthy weight.
But this new Australian research in the BMJ, which reviewed the results of 13 separate trials on breakfast eating, weight change and energy intake, found little evidence for those views.
The findings of the Monash University research team suggest that skipping breakfast might in fact be a good way to reduce total daily calorie intake.
They found that breakfast eaters consumed more calories overall and breakfast skippers did not have a greater appetite in the afternoon.
And they say caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults – because it could have the opposite effect.
However, the researchers added that there were limitations to their study.
What is a healthy breakfast?
- For an energy boost – try an “apple pie” porridge, with cinnamon, or baked beans on wholemeal toast
- For protein – try scrambled eggs with spinach on toast or low-fat Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts
- For a light bite – make a smoothie from tinned fruit, banana and spinach or mash avocado on toast
Source: NHS UK
The participants in the studies were only followed for short periods – from between two and 16 weeks – and the difference in calorie intake between breakfast eaters and skippers was small.
The researchers concluded that working out the long-term effect of skipping or adding breakfast to diets still needed more research.
Calcium and fibre boost
Prof Kevin Whelan, dietetics expert and head of King’s College London’s nutritional sciences department, says we should not get too hung up on calorie intake first thing in the morning.
“This study does not say breakfast is bad for the health,” he said.
“Breakfast is important for nutrient intake, such as cereals and milk which are good for calcium and fibre.”
But the BMJ research did not look at this aspect of breakfast.
“We are not talking about breakfast being the cause of obesity,” he said.