Heart of the Matter – the breakfast debate

By Sarah Noone and Caoimhe Clynch Nutrition News   |   20th Feb 2019

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone, and student nutritionist Caoimhe Clynch, digest a new study on breakfast

A new study from a team of researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, that examined whether skipping breakfast helped with weight loss, has received a lot of media attention in recent weeks, but what exactly did the research show?

The study claimed that people who skipped breakfast consumed, on average, 260 fewer calories a day than those that regularly ate breakfast and were, on average, 0.44 kilograms or 1 lb lighter.

Therefore, the researchers suggested that eating breakfast may not be a good strategy for weight loss.

However, there were several limitations to this study. Firstly, the difference in weight between those who ate and didn’t eat breakfast was really very small (440grams or around 1lb). The researchers themselves stated that the studies included in the review had a high risk of bias and that the quality of the studies was low.

"There really isn't a 'one-way fits all' approach, it’s about whatever works best for you,"

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Furthermore, the trials in this review only had a short-term follow-up of seven weeks for weight loss which doesn’t tell a lot about the longer-term effects. It is also important to remember that weight is not the only marker for health and that many studies have shown that eating breakfast has many additional benefits such as improved levels of concentration.

The review suggests that there was no good evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast promotes weight loss or that skipping it leads to weight gain. However, even the researchers themselves stated that the study findings should be interpreted with caution considering the several limitations.

The bottom line is that a nutritional breakfast that provides you with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals can be a good meal to incorporate into our daily routine. However, eating breakfast depends on many factors of our lives.

Therefore, if you enjoy a healthy well-balanced breakfast continue to do so and if you prefer to eat your first meal later in the day, then that’s OK too. There really isn’t a ‘one-way fits all’ approach, it’s about whatever works best for you.

(This review was published in the BMJ)  

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