I have heard the phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” countless times throughout my life. My parents have said it to me, I have read it in various blogs about how to lose weight, I have seen it on TV shows, and I even tell myself that when I wake up really hungry (aka every morning). But despite the many times that I have heard this phrase, I have never questioned why it’s true. Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
John Ivy, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, states that breakfast is what sets us up to take on the day. Not only does it give us the energy to perform physically, such as getting up and making it through the walk to class, but it also allows us to wake up our brain and function intellectually (1). During the day, most people eat meals every 4-5 hours and usually snack in between. At night however, people go much longer without eating anything because they are sleeping, causing carbohydrate levels to decrease dramatically. Both the muscular system and the nervous system benefit from higher levels of carbohydrates, creating more susceptibility to drowsiness and lack of motivation. Breakfast restocks the body with the necessary carbohydrates to have a productive and energetic day.
In addition to supplying your body with strength, breakfast has the ability to lower stress. Stress is a major concern for college students, so any remedy big or small can make a big difference. Like I said before, we don’t eat anything while we sleep, so our carbohydrate and glucose levels continue to lower as time passes. At a certain point in the night, the body needs to prevent the glucose levels from dropping too intensely, so cortisol (the stress hormone) is released in order to alert your body to start breaking down muscle and fat. In order to reduce the cortisol levels, glucose needs to be added to the body to replace it. The best way to do this is when you first wake up, so that way you don’t start off your day stressed out!
The International Journal of Obesity performed a study to understand more about missing breakfast and weight gain. The longitudinal, observational study included providing just under 14,000 boys and girls ages 9-14 with questionnaires asking about their breakfast habits, their BMIs, physical activity, inactivity, energy intake, ethnicity, and school work (2).The questionnaire was mailed to the children once every year for three years. The null hypothesis in the study is that skipping breakfast does not cause weight gain, and the alternative hypothesis is that skipping breakfast does cause weight gain.
The results surprised me because the overweight children that participated actually lowered their BMI by not eating breakfast compared to those who did eat breakfast. However, the children with an average weight for their age had their BMI increased when skipping breakfast regularly compared to those who do eat breakfast. Reverse causation could not be provided as an explanation due to time passed. However, there could be some third variables such as family history and income. Overall, there was a positive correlation between breakfast consumption and weight loss in children with average BMIs. Despite overweight children losing fat by skipping breakfast, there were still many positive results from breakfast consumption. They reported more energy and better quality of school work. I think that the benefits outweigh the costs for children with all body types.
Even though the study was only relevant to children ages 9-14, John Ivy also reported many potential gains from eating breakfast daily for all ages. I am going to be sure to continue eating my oatmeal with fruit, and I am going to encourage you to eat your favorite breakfast too!
Source 1: Ivy, John L. “Why Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day | EAS Academy.” EAS Academy. Abbot, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.
Source 2: Berkey, C. S. “Longitudinal Study of Skipping Breakfast and Weight Change in Adolescents.” Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 10 May 2003. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.