Like many people, I am a big fan of breakfast food. So much so that I regularly have eggs on toast or muesli for dinner. Don’t judge okay, it’s delicious. This being said, for many years I genuinely struggled to stomach food before 9 am. While I had a healthy appetite for lunch and dinner, eating breakfast simply just did not agree with me, so I chose not to force myself to eat it.
We all know the drill though – breakfast is the ‘most important meal of the day’ and if you miss it you will pretty much screw up your entire day. Apparently. For years skipping breakfast has been associated with obesity, a lack of productiveness and heart disease, and if you are one of the brave few who dare skip breakfast, it’s likely that you have been lectured on numerous occasions for your poor health decisions.
However, according to a recent article published in The New York Times, eating breakfast is not all it’s cracked up to be. Author and professor of pediatrics Aaron E. Carroll notes that studies on the role of breakfast in our diet are often influenced by “publication bias.”
“The [reports] improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others’ results. They also improperly used causal language in citing others’ results,” writes Carroll. “People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad.”
Additionally, Carroll says that studies that boast the benefits of breakfast demonstrate a clear bias because they are funded by the food industry. “Kellogg funded a highly cited article that found that cereal for breakfast is associated with being thinner,” writes Carroll.
“The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence (part of PepsiCo) financed a trial regarding consumption of oatmeal or frosted cornflakes (if you eat it in a highly controlled setting each weekday for four weeks), and found that only the no-breakfast group, which lost weight, experienced an increase in cholesterol.”
So what about the benefit of children eating breakfast? While Carroll admits that a child will always learn much better with a full stomach, he questions the need for children who are otherwise well fed to be forced to east breakfast.
“It’s not hard to imagine that children who are hungry will do better if they are nourished. This isn’t the same, though, as testing whether children who are already well nourished and don’t want breakfast should be forced to eat it,” writes Carroll.
“It has been found that children who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight than children who eat two breakfasts. But that seems to be because children who want more breakfasts are going hungry at home. No child who is hungry should be deprived of breakfast. That’s different than saying that eating breakfast helps you to lose weight.”
Overall Carroll advises people to listen to their bodies and do what is right for you. “The bottom line is that the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you’re hungry, eat it. But don’t feel bad if you’d rather skip it, and don’t listen to those who lecture you. Breakfast has no mystical powers.”