How Important is Morning Breakfast?

As a child, my parents stressed to me the importance of eating breakfast, citing it as ‘the most important meal of the day’. Many people frequently use this phrase as a way to advocate eating breakfast every morning, but seldom have I heard anyone give a true as to why this belief is held. As I’ve grown older, particularly in the past year or two, I’ve found myself eating breakfast much less frequently, all the while scared that this practice would have a negative effect on my health. However, upon looking into the matter further, I have failed to find any proof that breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day.

In an article on the author describes how some people will skip breakfast as a means of losing weight. Many people think that skipping breakfast will decrease calorie breakfastintake, and thus help them diet. Many observational studies have found that people who skip breakfast are more likely to gain weight, with scientists hypothesizing that missing breakfast causes people to snack more and eat larger servings throughout the day (Rubin). However, observational studies are not a good means by which to prove causation. The same article  cited a randomized control trial in which test subjects were randomly assigned to either eating breakfast or not eating breakfast. However, the experiment failed to find that skipping breakfast  particularly increased or decreased calorie count over the course of the day. After reading more, though, I found that Rubin notes another experiment done by Cornell University found through randomized control that those who skip breakfast save 450 calories a day.

Whether this is good or bad is left up to interpretation. This study found a correlation between skipping breakfast and calorie intake throughout the day, but did not find how this relates to weight loss.

I wanted to figure out if there was any proof that eating breakfast can lead to weight fluctuation, or any important health statistic for that matter. After all, the very concept of eating breakfast being important and making you more healthy is very vague and led by a soft endpoint, ‘health’. A New York Times article titled ‘Sorry, there’s nothing magical about breakfast’ cites a study from 2013 that found that the subjects that skipped breakfast had a slightly higher risk of heart disease. This is a correlation, though, not causation. It is very possible that a confounding variable, like eating habits, causes this. Those who skip breakfast may be more inclined to drink alcohol, or eat greasy food, which could lead to this correlation.

The more I looked, I found that there was distinct lack of well done randomized control trials. Some observational studies noted correlations, but could not go anywhere with these conclusions because of a lack of information. The studies  that I did find could not find a noticeable difference in weight of their test subjects. Further, this New York Times article cites numerous studies and experiments, all of which accept the null hypothesis and state that breakfast has no discernible effect and is not the most important meal of the day.

Despite not being able to find an experiment that links eating breakfast and a hard endpoint about health, I did find an EAS article linking several soft endpoints with eating breakfast as I concluded my research. It lists four main reasons why breakfast is important, among them, breakfast primes the body for calories later in the day, breakfast lowers stress hormones, breakfast impacts the entire day’s food consumption, and breakfast affects cognitive ability (Ivy).

As such, I can not say with certainty that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. From a nutritional standpoint, it is widely held that eating breakfast is good for you and primes your body for the day. However, I cannot report from what I’ve read that science has proven that breakfast will have a noticeable impact on your health, because it has not. As science has supported the nutritional benefits that the aforementioned EAS article reported, but has failed to link breakfast eating with weight loss, heart disease, or any other claims/myths that are out there. As a result I would advise breakfast eaters to keep eating breakfast. If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, don’t feel pressured to eat breakfast because of claimed nutritional benefits, because science has not substantiated them yet.



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4 thoughts on “How Important is Morning Breakfast?

  1. Jon Shanfelder

    As a person that eats breakfast every morning, this is a topic of interest. I eat breakfast bc I am hungry and I was always taught (including last semester in my nutrition’s course) that breakfast helped you body feel less hungry throughout the day. It is surprising to me that you cannot find any solid experimental studies done on this. Maybe there is a reason researchers can’t do experimental studies on this and that they are limited to observational studies? Maybe there is an ethical dilemma because it affects people’s weight and health? Here is some more info that may explain this

  2. Corbin Kennedy Miller

    Speaking from personal experience, I find that I do much better in class after i have breakfast. But when I looked further into the issue, i found that the findings of multiple studies were contradictory. One study found that an increase in sugar BF had no affect what-so-ever on a child’s performance, where as another study found that kids that ate breakfast had an increase in class participation as well as a decrease in disruptive behavior. So at the end of the day, it might just come down to personal preference on wither or not you eat breakfast in the morning.

  3. Christopher Ronkainen

    I found this topic very interesting. However, I am a bit of a different person than you. When I was younger I regularly skipped breakfast, but now I almost never miss it! From my personal experience I can’t really tell a difference as to if it has effected my food intake or not but I found it interesting that you brought up your personal experience with eating breakfast. This article posted on BBC’s website draws some very interesting confounding variables into the mix about the idea that those who skip breakfast are overweight. They say that those that eat breakfast may try to live a healthier life style, or that they are more generally active. I think you’d find it a good read!

  4. Zihan Wang

    Hi, Alexander Roker. I want to say I have similar experience to you. When I was young, I didn’t like eat breakfast because I am difficult to get up. I often have no time to take breakfast, although I know it’s not healthy. Unfortunately, as time went by, I dislike breakfast anymore, but my parents never stop forcing me to take it. In addition, you give me a survey that abort breakfast isn’t helpful for losing weight, and someone proposes that people who don’t take breakfast will eat more snacks, more likely to gain weight. The survey you used in blog is great and it makes your blog more persuasive and scientific. By the way, the class material is available in your blog such as correlation doesn’t equal to causality. Great blog. Here is a video about your topic

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