Should We Skip or Eat Breakfast (The Most Important Meal of The Day)?

You have probably heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” more times than you could ever count. This message has been ingrained into your belief system since you were a toddler, and this notion was continually reinforced by society at large through the media. As a young child how could you not be swept up by the latest, colorful cereal craze, especially when there is always an amazing prize in store at the bottom of the box?

And, according to recent headlinesbreakfast is even more important than you might’ve thought. Across the world, media sources from the New York Times to CNN to the Daily Mail have been yelling that breakfast is not just about getting a good start to the day, it might be preventing heart attacks as well! Apparently, skipping breakfast increases your risk of stroke and heart disease by 87%, making it that much more important that we all chow down first thing after waking up.

Correlation Doesn’t Equal Causation

Cohort studies can only offer clues about the causes of disease, rather than definitive proof of links between risk factors and health. There are simply too many factors that can influence both breakfast habits and heart disease to make any definitive claims based on an observational study like this.

The “discovery” that breakfast was the most important meal of the day was made in 1847 by Dr. William Robertson, who practiced medicine in Buxton, in the U.K., and who wrote in his Treatise on Diet and Regimen: “Breakfast should always be an important, if not the most important, meal of the day.” Why? Well, because “breakfast is very properly made to consist of a considerable proportion of liquids, to supply the loss of the fluids of the body during the hours of sleep.” Eh?

Robertson, you see, was a water physician, and Buxton was a water spa town, and Robertson believed Buxton waters could cure a host of diseases, including the terrible problem of night-time dehydration. This was a belief not far removed from Hippocrates’ belief in the four humors; or, to put it less politely, it’s garbage.

It is to Adelle Davis (1904-1974), an American dietitian, that we owe the mantra that we should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper. Why? Well Davis, who was no more scientific than Robertson, had been told that our blood sugar levels fall in the mornings unless we eat breakfast. Actually, nothing could be more healthful in the Western world today than falling blood sugar levels, for over half of all older people are pre-diabetic or Type 2 diabetic. But Davis supposed (with precisely zero evidence) that falling blood sugar levels were a problem, to which breakfast was the solution. We now, therefore, know the evidence Davis invoked to justify breakfast actually shows the opposite: To be healthy in a world of rampant Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, we should skip breakfast and rejoice in our blood sugar levels falling gently yet safely over the morning.

The Big Scary Study is a wonderful media device whereby journalists take a piece of reasonably humdrum, everyday research — in this case an observational study looking for Association between Skipping Breakfast with Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality — and turn it into something to fear. It’s like saying that your bed is much more dangerous to you than any shark. In fact, 450 die every year from falling out of bed, that is more than hundred times as many people die from shark attacks. Furthermore, falling out of bed leads to 1.8 million emergency room visits, and 400,000 hospital admissions every year.

Scientists were honestly misled in the past by many observational studies showing that obese people skipped meals more often than thin people. This mindset became ingrained in nutritional dogma. Breakfast skippers were more likely, on average, to be poorer, less educated, less healthy and have a poorer diet. Overweight people were more likely to diet and, after a binge, more likely to feel guilty and skip a meal.

Despite these flaws in the science and the steady increase in opposing evidence from randomised controlled trials, the idea that skipping meals is unhealthy has prevailed for decades. It’s still part of current NHS recommendations by Public Health England and one of its eight key healthy diet messages, part of USDA Dietary guidelines for Americans, as well as the Australian Guidelines for Nutrition.

Epidemiology is a complex field and communicating risk can be extremely difficult. More importantly, we’ve built a media system that rewards sensationalism, and doesn’t condemn misrepresentations, which means that the best way to earn money as a publisher is to churn out nonsense. The only way to really change that is for all of us, everywhere, to question what lies behind the headlines, and actually read some of the research we hear about in the news.

Breakfast really needs to be downgraded from “most important meal of the day” to “meal”. Different nations have different breakfast traditions. The big “American” breakfast contrasts directly with the French “petit dejeuner” or “small lunch”. The key word here is ‘small’. The definition of the word breakfast is the first meal of the day and its origin was derived from the late Middle English verbs break and fast.  When you don’t eat, this is technically known as ‘fasting’. This is the reason there is the English word ‘break fast’ or breakfast, the meal that breaks your fast. It does not mean to make sure you fill your bellies within minutes of waking.  Prior to the mid 13th century dinner was actually the first meal of the day.  In Europe eating early in the day was originally thought to be a sin associated with overindulgence and gluttony.   Many other cultures such as the Egyptians would only have coffee and would not break their fasts until noon.

Indeed, a significant amount of evidence has found that reducing your eating window (say, by skipping breakfast or dinner) is linked to less insulin in the blood, a lower risk of diabetes, and an increase in autophagy, which refers to a process whereby the body repairs or removes damaged cells.(Ref)(Ref)(Ref)

Many other studies that have focused on the pros and cons of fasting, including high quality randomized controlled trials, found that there’s no significant difference in body composition whether you skip breakfast or even fast every other day.(Ref)(Ref)(Ref) Others suggest that breakfast skipping does indeed lead to a lower BMI.(Ref)(Ref)(Ref)

On the other hand, may be due to circadian rhythm, eating a large breakfast is beneficial than eating a large dinner, which might be a useful alternative for the management of obesity and metabolic syndrome. So, to be clear. If you eat one meal a day, best make it breakfast. If you eat two meals a day, best make it breakfast and lunch. BUT eating 3 meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner) is not necessarily better than 2 (lunch/ dinner), which is often the message given out by the ‘Never skip breakfast’ mafioso. The optimal strategy seems to be eating a large meal in the mid-day – sometime between 12:00 and 3:00pm and only a small amount in the evening hours. Interestingly, this is the typical traditional Mediterranean eating pattern. They have traditionally eaten a large lunch, followed by a siesta and then a small, almost snack sized ‘dinner’. While we often think of the Mediterranean diet as healthy due to the foods, the timing of the meals may also play a role.

The well-known phrase “Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dine like a Pauper” is true, but do you follow it?

Don’t worry too much about the headlines.

May be we are asking the wrong question. May we should question ” When Should We Eat Breakfast (The Most Important Meal of The Day)?”

In our Restoring Health Program, we believe breakfast should be understood in its literal meaning – to break your fast – and the longer you can go without breaking your fast, the better.  Why?  Because you are giving your body a break!  You are giving your body a break from producing insulin every time you eat, which can lead to insulin resistance in the long-term.

So, breakfast is certainly an important meal but it does not need to be consumed as soon as you roll off the bed.  Breaking your fast with sugary cereal and a muffin is certainly not healthy.  The greatest problem is that breakfast foods are often little more than dessert in disguise, containing vast quantities of highly processed carbohydrates and sugar. You can break your fast at noontime with a healthy salad and a piece of salmon.  Have a cup of coffee in the morning.

So, what to eat for breakfast? If you are not hungry – then don’t eat anything at all. It is perfectly acceptable to break your fast at noon with a piece of grilled salmon with a side salad. Technically, this will be your ‘break fast’. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating breakfast in the morning either. It is just like any other meal. However, in the morning rush, there is a tendency to reach for convenient prepackaged, heavily processed, and heavily sugared foods. Eat whole, unprocessed foods at all meals, including breakfast. If you find that you do not have time to eat – then don’t. Again – simplify your life.

Top reasons why not eating breakfast within 1-2 hour after waking up will improve your health

You’ll Stop Slowing Down Your Metabolism.

When you eat breakfast within 1-2 hour upon waking, over time your metabolism will slow down, with its accompanying high insulin level that prevents you from burning fat and losing weight. Insulin locks fat onto your body; you can’t lose weight when your insulin levels are high.

You also put yourself at risk for insulin resistance, which will lead to Type 2 diabetes if left uncorrected.

You Won’t Lose The Benefits Of Your Overnight Fast.

 As the word breakfast implies – you break your fast. All night you’ve been fasting and burning fat, perhaps even producing ketones as a better fuel source for your body than sugar.

Then you wake up and eat, which spikes your insulin and nullifies the benefits of the fast you just gifted your body with overnight. These benefits are:

  • Autophagy: the recycling action of your cells. Your cells are cleaning themselves of waste and damaged protein, especially in your brain.
  • Formation of new brain cells (neurogenesis): yes, when you extend your overnight fast by skipping breakfast, your body makes new brain cells.
  • Anti-inflammatory effect: for example, if you have inflammation or arthritis, skipping breakfast will ease your inflammation.
  • Body repair: when you skip breakfast you give your body – including your digestive tract – a better chance to repair itself. This repair process includes autophagy.  

You’ll Stop Harming Your Body With Standard Breakfast Foods.

Our typical breakfast foods are loaded with refined carbohydrates and sugar: juice, toast, cereal, pancakes, fruit, and sweetened yogurt, for example, are a common part of many people’s breakfast.

But here’s the harm you do to your body when you eat these items:

  • You create a big insulin spike in your body;
  • about 90 minutes later you’ll be very hungry before lunchtime; then,
  • you’ll be craving sweets the rest of the day; and,
  • because your blood sugar’s swinging wildly throughout the day, by nighttime you’ll be craving exactly the wrong foods for your health.

If this sounds like what happens to you when you eat breakfast, I guarantee it means you’re eating too many carbs in the morning or too many the days before your cravings strike. Try writing down what you eat and see if you can identify this cause and effect.

By | 2020-06-23T08:55:43+00:00 April 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|5 Comments

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  1. zen April 25, 2019 at 08:28

    Eating Breakfast Doesn’t Aid Weight Loss Efforts

    The featured study divided 309 overweight and obese but otherwise healthy adults into two random groups. Some were told to eat breakfast, while the others were told to skip it. [3]

    The researchers specifically wanted to find out whether eating or not eating breakfast had any impact on weight loss. After 16 weeks, the researchers found no difference in weight loss between the groups. In essence, it didn’t matter if they ate breakfast or not.

    It’s worth noting that they didn’t control the food intake of any of the participants. Most likely, the reason why there was no notable weight loss difference between those who ate breakfast and those who didn’t, is that they may all have been eating an overall inappropriate diet, as most Americans do.

    After all, if you’re eating large amounts of refined carbs and processed fructose throughout the day, skipping breakfast may not be enough to achieve weight loss, as this type of diet actively prevents your body from effectively burning fat.

  2. zen April 25, 2019 at 08:31

    Eating Breakfast Does Not Improve Metabolism

    As reported by Time Magazine:
    “…contrary to popular belief, having breakfast every day was not tied to an improvement in metabolism. Prior thought — supported by research — has shown that eating early in the day can prevent people from overeating later out of hunger, and it boosts their metabolism early. The new study which examined causal links between breakfast habits and energy balance couldn’t prove that.” [5]
    The study found that eating breakfast was linked to a greater overall dietary energy intake. And again, the type of foods you eat for breakfast may be the key ingredient that is being overlooked in this type of research — both past and present.

    Typically, you will find that eating a carbohydrate-rich breakfast will tend to make you hungry again far sooner than a low-carb, high-fat breakfast will. The reason for this is because if your body is using sugar as its primary fuel, it will need a “refill” at regular intervals, as sugar is a very fast-burning fuel.

    Fat, on the other hand, is a slow-burning fuel, allowing you to feel satiated longer, and the more important fact is that you have loads more fat available than sugar stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. While glycogen stores will only last for less than a day, your fat store can last for weeks.

    In addition to that, eating first thing in the morning also coincides with your circadian cortisol peak, which has an exaggerated impact on your insulin secretion. When you eat during this time, it leads to a rapid and large insulin release and a corresponding rapid drop in blood sugar levels, more so than when you eat at other times of the day.

    If you’re healthy, your blood sugar level won’t drop dangerously low (such as can occur with hypoglycemia) but they can drop low enough to make you feel hungry again, even though you recently ate. This effect is amplified when eating a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, such as pancakes, muffins, cereal, or bread, with a large glass of juice for example.

  3. zen April 25, 2019 at 08:33

    Is Skipping Breakfast Really Going To Kill You?

    The skipping breakfast study came out of the Harvard School of Public Health, where researchers examined data collected from a 16 year long period involving nearly 27,000 men. The study was published in the journal Circulation, and the dudes involved were between 45 and 82 years old when the study began.

    Skipping breakfast was correlated in the research with a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or coronary heart disease death compared to breakfast eaters, but as Today points out, “only around 3,400 [of men in the study] were self-reported breakfast skippers,” adding that “study participants were only asked once – at the start of the study – if they were breakfast eaters.”

    The site adds:

    “While the men did report on their food frequency throughout the 16-year period, they were never asked again if they were breakfast eaters. This fact alone limits the impact of the findings, as the assumption is that eating habits remained the same for the entire 16-year study period. It is also quite likely that some fraction of both the breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers changed their eating behavior… Another key finding was that men who reported ‘eating late at night’ had a 55 percent higher coronary heart disease risk compared to those who didn’t, but the subgroup of participants was very small, just 313 men, or about 2 percent. This small number, acknowledged by the authors, is not convincing evidence alone of increased risk.”

    So while skipping breakfast is not something you should go out of your way to do if you like breakfast, the act of not being a breakfast eater alone is not likely to kill you by itself.

  4. zen April 25, 2019 at 08:34

    New meta-study concludes breakfast is not the most important meal of the day

    The meta-study gathered data from 13 separate randomized control trials, all conducted to compare the effects of eating breakfast and skipping breakfast in adults. The results were pretty clear with the breakfast groups eating, on average, 260 calories more per day than those that skipped breakfast. Those that skipped breakfast also weighed an average of one pound (0.44 kg) less than their breakfast eating counterparts.

    Of the studies included in the review that examined metabolic rates and hormone levels associated with appetite regulation, the data revealed no significant difference between breakfast consumers and breakfast skippers. Two studies examining changes in diet-induced thermogenesis, the metabolic process in which your body converts calories to heat, also found virtually no differences between the two groups.

    All of this evidence adds up to a reasonably confident conclusion that breakfast consumption does not promote weight loss or play a major role in altering energy expenditure across the day. In fact, the researchers suggest that eating breakfast may, in some cases, have the opposite effect and hinder weight loss plans.

    “Although eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects, such as improved concentration and attentiveness levels in childhood, caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect,” the researchers conclude in the published article.

    But why then has such as strong anecdotal history built up around the idea of breakfast being so beneficial and important? Almost every major governmental health body around the world recommends breakfast as important and advises people to avoid skipping it.

    Tim Spector, from King’s College London, examines this very question in an opinion piece published in coordination with the new research. Spector suggests the idea that breakfast is important may stem from the classic causation/correlation problem that haunts the vast majority of observational research. While epidemiological studies may often show that, in general populations, people who skip breakfast tend to be more overweight and eat more later in the day, this does not mean skipping breakfast actively causes those subsequent effects.

    “People who skipped breakfast were more likely on average to be poorer, less educated, less healthy, and to have a generally poorer diet,” Spector writes. “Overweight people were more likely to try and diet, and after a binge were more likely to feel guilty and skip a meal.”

    Some research is affirming that large caloric intakes late in the evening can be unhealthy. So, certainly, skipping breakfast and having a big dinner late at night is not an ideal strategy, but it is becoming increasingly clear that breakfast, in and of itself, is not as important as we previously suspected. Spector does note that every individual’s biological make up is different, so there is no “one size fits all” piece of advice regarding breakfast.

    “Around a third of people in developed countries regularly skip breakfast, whereas many others (including myself) enjoy it,” Spector writes. “This does not mean that all overweight people would benefit from skipping breakfast. Some people are programmed to prefer eating food earlier in the day and others later, which might suit our unique personal metabolism.”

    The new study was published in the journal BMJ.

  5. zen April 25, 2019 at 08:41

    What if the benefits of breakfast are just another diet myth?

    The health benefit of breakfast has now been completely debunked by a new systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 randomised trials that investigated the impact of skipping breakfast on weight and metabolic rate.

    A Hadza tribesman holds out a handful of honey
    PHOTO: Hadza hunters may eat as little as a handful of honey until dinnertime. (Supplied: Jeff Leach)
    The studies vary widely in duration and quality, and seven looked at changes in weight as well as changes in energy usage. Their conclusion is the same as in recent reviews that have been largely ignored, namely, there is no evidence to support the claim that skipping meals makes you put on weight or adversely reduces your resting metabolic rate.

    There is now considerable evidence from these studies that skipping breakfast can be an effective way to reduce weight for some people. So why has the field got it so wrong in the past?

    One reason is the belief in “grazing” rather than “gorging” to avoid “stress” on the body from having to digest large meals, especially later in the day when glucose and insulin peaks are higher and metabolic rate lower.

    The flawed rationale was based on lab rodents and a few short-term human studies. While the concept of over-compensation later in the day was correct — breakfast skippers do eat more lunch and slightly reduce their activity — it is not nearly enough to make up the energy deficit in a real-world setting outside a lab.

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