For as long as I can remember, I have always been told by my mother to eat breakfast because “it’s the most important meal of the day.” And for the most part, when living at home, I always did eat breakfast.
Now that I am in college, things are different. Sometimes, I just don’t have time for breakfast, so I skip it. Other times, I wake up so late that I’m actually eating my first meal at lunchtime (12-2.) Because of the saying, I have always wondered if it really is that important to your health to always eat breakfast.
Upon researching this, I uncovered that scientists have discovered a link between not eating breakfast and gaining weight. I wondered if there is a direct relationship between not eating breakfast and gaining weight. This also leaves open the possible of reverse causation because maybe weight gain is causing you to not eat breakfast. The results being due to chance is always an option as well as third variables which affect both weight gain and whether or not you eat breakfast. An example of a confounding variable, in this case, could be a lack of time or maybe no food available for consumption.
While trying to discover if there is any mechanism for the hypothesis, I discovered a study which examined the effect of eating breakfast on humans. Body weight was one of the topics reviewed. Scientists were able to find out that breakfast eaters generally consumed more calories daily than people who skip breakfast. However, the people who ate breakfast were seen to be less likely to be overweight than their opposite, the breakfast skipper. Scientists didn’t stop at this one study, though. Because of the continued association between skipping breakfast and gaining weight, a meta-analysis was conducted to see if a mechanism linking the two factors could be uncovered. Nineteen observational studies were conducted with over 90,000 participants providing the data. Researchers were able to find a positive link between skipping breakfast and gaining weight. Although they were still not able to discover a mechanism that explained this, eating breakfast was still encouraged because of its vast other benefits unrelated to body weight. I like the fact that this study was conducted with over 90,000 participants. This gives the data some real weight in my opinion. If you discover a trend when looking at a control group of 90,000 there is a high likelihood of correlation.
Additional studies were conducted to test the possibility of reverse causation being the cause of weight gain due to skipping breakfast. A few were able to conclude that overweight children are most likely to skip breakfast. There is a problem with these findings, however, because researchers were not able to differentiate what occurred first: becoming overweight or skipping breakfast. Further studies were conducted to see how this problem could be avoided to not skew the data. Researchers conducted a longitudinal study where 14,000 boys and girls from all around the country were given a questionnaire and to report their BMI at the beginning of each year dating from 1996 to 1999. The results continued to complicate the equation. Children who were deemed overweight from the beginning of the study and skipped breakfast were seen to lose body fat in some cases. However, when looking into the normal weight children who skipped breakfast, some cases of weight gain were noticed. Scientists continued to encourage eating breakfast because of its ability to help maintain a healthy diet and provide energy to the consumer.
What we can take away from this information is that although there are some cases where skipping breakfast has caused weight gain, there is no mechanism or decisive evidence that proves this to always be true. Breakfast is deemed “the most important meal of the day” because of other factors such as improved energy and focus, not because of whether you will gain weight from eating it or not. The benefits of breakfast are well known and many are being proven to be true, so eating it can only be an advantage to you. Skipping breakfast may or may not lead to weight gain, but it also won’t allow you to have the energy and focus that breakfast eaters possess. From now on, I will try to continue to eat breakfast whenever I can because I not only enjoy it, but it is able to provide things beneficial to my wellbeing… especially if it looks like this.