Does skipping breakfast cause weight gain?

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.

Sunny cheerful 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 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.

Final thoughts

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. breakfast-02

6 thoughts on “Does skipping breakfast cause weight gain?

  1. Rebecca Aronow

    I never really ate breakfast at home and I pretty much never do here either. I know all of the health benefits of eating breakfast, mostly that you have more energy and feel more alert and awake, but I never heard that skipping breakfast causes weight gain. Thinking about my own eating patterns, I thought of a couple mechanisms that could be at play. The main thing that I thought of was that when I don’t eat breakfast, I often am so hungry by the time I eat that I scarf down a whole bunch of food at once, more than I usually would. This made me think that maybe the people who weren’t eating breakfast were consuming more food in a shorter amount of time, which could be leading to weight gain. But the studies found that people eating breakfast consumed less calories than the people skipping breakfast, so that contradicted that idea. I then thought about something that my aunt, who’s a doctor, said to me about dieting. She explained to me this idea that our bodies will go into “starvation mode” when we don’t consume enough calories, so our bodies burn less calories because we’re not supplying it with enough to begin with, and we end up usually being unable to lose weight and potentially even gaining weight. So maybe by skipping breakfast we’re not supplying our body with enough nutrients and calories at a time when it needs them, so our body is going into that starvation mode and therefore the people who are skipping breakfast are showing signs of weight gain. I haven’t found any scientific research on this being a mechanism for your hypothesis, but it’s definitely something I’ll look into. In the meantime, I’ll probably start eating my breakfast just in case!

  2. Jessica Heckler

    For me, breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, but it is also my favorite meal of the day, so naturally I love this blog post!! I have heard before that skipping breakfast is linked to weight gain but I never really understood why. It makes me feel better that even scientists are still struggling to find a mechanism for this correlation. However, I think an important thing to take into consideration is what these kids were eating for breakfast. A healthy breakfast versus a donut or tastykake might make all the difference whether the children are gaining weight or staying healthy from eating breakfast every morning! The idea of reverse causation never occurred to me before reading your blog though. This is definitely an interesting viewpoint that should be taken into consideration when analyzing all of these experiments. Overall, I agree with your conclusion of eating breakfast everyday! Without breakfast, I would never have the energy to make it through the morning!

  3. Trevor Dennehy

    This is rather interesting, I had never heard this adage, I just assumed that in saying “Breakfast is the most important meal” was in reference to the nutrients denoted in the conclusion. I assumed that skipping breakfast would possibly be conducive to weight loss, as it would be one less meal a day. Little did I know, skipping a meal promotes belly fat storage, which is not a good thing. There are other detrimental possibilities too, as this article points out.

  4. Danielle Megan Sobel

    This is a really well written blog post. You connected the things we learn about in class such as reverse causation and mechanisms to your topic and it helped me learn about a real life example of those better. I have always thought that breakfast skipping may have some negative connotations now and then, but I have never taken that much time to think about into it. It makes sense though- People may skip breakfast because they think they are over weight, but in fact the act of skipping the meal is what is causing the weight gain. This link talks about other eating habits that may lead to weight gain, such as night eating. It’s interesting

  5. Chelsea Greenberg

    As someone who isn’t typically awake while breakfast is served in the dining commons (my earliest class starts at 11:15), this issue of not eating breakfast causing weight gain is relevant to me. I have always heard in my health classes that not eating breakfast does cause weight gain, but your post sheds a different opinion. You did a great job at using different studies and meta-analyses to come to your conclusion on the issue. I like your writing style because it is fluid and easy to understand. While skipping breakfast may not lead to weight gain, I guess I should make sure to eat something so that I am energized throughout the day. Nice post!

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