Breakfast is the most disputed meal of the day. Some claim that it’s the most important meal because it sets you up for a good day. Others say that you’re better off skipping it altogether as an effective tool for weight loss and maintenance.
So what does the research say – should we be skipping breakfast or digging in for our waistline’s sake?
Breakfast is a meal that both the scientific and general community debate over. Popular figures in the media have either embraced breakfast as essential or shunned it completely. This has led to much confusion in the general population.
Hundreds of observational studies that have led researchers to the conclusion that there was little evidence for one strategy or another. But despite this, the humble breakfast continues to divide.
With this in mind, researchers who have previously explored this topic designed a systemic review to include the most recent research on breakfast.
A systematic review and meta-analysis took place to assess the effects of eating versus skipping breakfast on obesity-related outcomes.
The team searched a variety of research databases for obesity and breakfast related terms in human studies.
Included studies were randomised controlled trials had at least one breakfast-skipping group and one breakfast-eating group (whether recommended or provided), participants who were normal or overweight, and that reported weight or other anthropometric outcomes.
Exclusion criteria included participants with conditions that affected weight (except for obesity, diabetes and heart disease) and studies that had factors that confounded the eating vs skipping effects.
For the final review and analysis, a total of 10 studies were included. The length of study spanned from 6 days to 16 weeks. Some included recommendations to eat/skip breakfast, and others provided some or all meals for the duration of the study.
When the 95% confidence interval was calculated, many were defined as not statistically significant. No discernible effects of eating or skipping breakfast were found on body weight, BMI, body fat percentage, fat mass, lean mass, waist circumference, waist:hip ratio, sagittal abdominal diameter or fat mass index.
Two studies had low risk of bias across all categories, and two had a high risk of bias due to not blinding personnel. All of the studies were unable to blind participants to the intervention of eating or skipping breakfast.
The researchers concluded that there was no discernible effect of eating breakfast or skipping breakfast on obesity-related anthropometric measures within the reviewed studies.
These findings are limited to anthropometric outcomes. The researchers stated that the results do not inform about the effects on blood glucose control, cardiometabolic risk, cognitive performance or other outcomes. They noted that just because it does not have a statistically significant effect on weight does not mean that breakfast is a bad recommendation.
More studies are needed to deepen the findings into other areas that may contribute to the effect of breakfast or skipping breakfast on overall wellbeing.
Brown, M.M.B., Milanes, J.E., Allison, D.B. and Brown, A.W., 2020. Eating versus skipping breakfast has no discernible effect on obesity-related anthropometric outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. F1000Research, 9(140), p.140.