Many people believe that having a large breakfast prevents overeating later in the day and can help you lose weight. Even doctors have suggested that you eat about a third of your daily calorie intake at breakfast, enhancing breakfast’s reputation as the most important meal of the day. But where’s the evidence?
James Betts, a senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Bath has dismissed the idea that “eating breakfast like a king” will kickstart the metabolism to burn more energy and prevent unhealthy food choices later on. “These are largely assumptions based on observations which have never been tested” he says.
Do healthy people eat breakfast or does eating breakfast make you healthy? He thought there would be lots of evidence but couldn’t find it. The idea seems to have started as a marketing ploy by John Harvey Kellogg at the turn of the century as he promoted his cereals.
So to test the theory he asked volunteers to either eat a 700 calorie breakfast or just drink only water until lunch. The “no breakfast group “ate more at lunch but not enough to make up the 700 calories eaten by the other group at breakfast. And it didn’t increase their hunger later in the day.
Hormone tests showed that the levels of hunger were similar in both groups until lunchtime but by mid-afternoon the people who had eaten breakfast were hungrier. By the end of the day however the breakfast eaters had usually burned off the extra calories through fidgeting or light exercise.
Other earlier research has shown that children who skip breakfast perform worse at school than children who have breakfast. But other related factors like poverty, neglect or lack of sleep may also contribute to the poorer performance.
There was also research that showed that men who skipped breakfast were more likely to have a heart attack!
Dr Peter Rogers, a psychology professor innutrition and behaviour at the University of Bristol, says that doctors who tell overweight patients not to skip breakfast should think again as it’s probably the easiest meal to miss out.
And going back to Dr Betts’ volunteers who drank only water for breakfast we now know that water also affects our calorie consumption.