What Makes Breakfast So Important?

We’ve all been told, at one time or another, that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” A dietician might have stressed this fact in a discussion about your dietary lifestyle. You may have heard your doctor say those words once or twice.

You’ve probably seen the phrase in print a dozen times or more and heard it on television two dozen times more. In many homes, mothers have been known to casually mention this little nugget of information several mornings a month to whichever family members happen to be within hearing distance.

Despite all these reminders, some people still insist on skipping breakfast, particularly when they are trying to lose weight. Some even convince themselves that missing the morning meal will help them lose weight faster; nothing could be further from the truth. Refusing to eat breakfast is a seriously flawed weight loss strategy.

Numerous studies have strongly linked the practice of skipping breakfast to the development of obesity.

One study conducted by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health followed more than 2,000 adolescents for five years. The researchers tracked eating patterns, height, weight, body-mass index and physical activity. At the end of five years, their data showed a consistent pattern; the more often a person ate breakfast, the less likely he or she was to be overweight or obese.

The patterns we establish in our teen years often extend into our adult life. An extended study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reinforces that point when it comes to the relationship between missing breakfast and gaining weight.

Scientists at the University of Tasmania began tracking the eating patterns of a national sample of 2,184 Australian children in 1985 and checked in again with this same group two decades later. After adjusting for various factors, ranging from gender to lifestyle factors, they determined that study members who skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood had higher total cholesterol levels, higher concentrations of potentially dangerous LDL cholesterol, higher fasting insulin counts and larger waistlines than those who ate breakfast at both time points.

So, do you still think you can beat the odds and lose weight fast by skipping breakfast?

In that case, the deck is definitely stacked against you. A University of Massachusetts study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who skipped breakfast had a 4.5 times greater risk of becoming obese than regular breakfast eaters. That’s just not a 4.5 times tougher time losing weight; it is a dramatically increased chance of gaining unwanted pounds!

These same researchers came to the conclusion that skipping the morning meal leads to bad food choices later in the day. Scientists at the Imperial College London backed up that conclusion when they discovered evidence that missing the first meal of the day actually tricks your brain into thinking that you want to consume the high calorie foods that pack on the pounds and keep you from losing weight.

Using functional magnetic resonance scans, they studied 20 healthy, non-obese individuals. On the mornings that the participants were told to skip breakfast, the “reward” center of each person’s brain became more active when they looked at photos of high calorie foods like pizza, cake and chocolate than when they viewed pictures of healthier options like vegetables, fish and salad. On other mornings, the same people underwent brain scans 90 minutes after eating breakfast. On the breakfast days, the “reward” centers of their brains showed just about the same amount of activity when they were shown photos of the high calorie and healthy choices. Even the strongest wills have been known to crumble when the brain demands a reward. When you skip breakfast and try to eat sensibly, you are essentially trying to outwit your own brain. As a famous television doctor often proclaims when dealing with guests who make bad choices, “Good luck with that.”

By consuming a morning meal every day, especially integrating high protein breakfast foods, you often feel fuller and enhance your body’s ability to lose weight. Skipping breakfast not only makes losing weight a whole lot harder, it may actually damage your health in ways that are just now being discovered.

In a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a team of scientists studied 29,000 men for 16 years. During that time, they tracked their exercise patterns, disease rates, health markers and diets. During the course of this extensive study, 2,000 of the men developed Type 2 diabetes. The research team uncovered a surprising fact; men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 21 percent higher risk of developing this form of diabetes than the men who ate breakfast on a regular basis. When they went back to their data and accounted for the quality of their subjects’ breakfasts and each man’s body mass index, the heightened risk still remained.

Although further studies on the subject are now in the works, some scientists suspect that eating breakfast helps stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day. If this turns out to be true, it is yet another strong argument for taking the time to have a healthy breakfast when you are trying to lose weight. Unstable blood sugar levels lead to cravings and cravings often lead to diet crashes or, in worse case scenarios, diet train wrecks. The breakfast you consume, after the sun rises may save you from giving in to the temptation of that pint of ice cream after the sun sets.

Avoiding your morning meal can also impact your immune system. Gamma inferon is a natural antiviral that directly activates immune cells which are essential for fighting diseases and infections. A study in the Netherlands found that consuming a substantial breakfast increases your body’s gamma inferon levels while neglecting breakfast causes these levels to drop by 17%.

Studies continue to show that taking the time to eat a healthy breakfast wards off chronic health conditions, improves mental acuity, boosts energy and improves body weight. While we hate to take sides in family matters, this is one of those cases where your mother is right; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you’re planning to lose weight, you can’t afford to miss your morning meal.

Shop our selection of healthy breakfast foods and get your day and weight loss started off right!

Sources:

1) University of Minnesota study
US News. U.S.News & World Report. Web. 09 May 2012.
2) University of Tasmania study "Supplemental Content." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 09 May 2012.
3) University of Massachusetts study Ma Y, et al. Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2003; 158: 85-92.
("5 Reasons Skipping Breakfast Is a Bad Idea." Diet Tips. Web. 09 May 2012.
4) Imperial College London MRI study Stacy, Kelli Miller. "Skip Breakfast, Get Fat." WebMD. WebMD. Web. 09 May 2012.
5) Type 2 Diabetes Risk "Really? To Lower Your Risk of Diabetes, Eat Breakfast." Well. Web. 09 May 2012.