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New study questions benefits of breakfast as "most important meal of the day"

September 01, 2015

Nutrition experts have been touting the importance of eating breakfast and not skipping what is the “most important meal of the day.”

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges everyone to “eat a healthy breakfast every day” such as fruits, oatmeal and whole grain cereal.

New Research Results

Now comes a new study that says breakfast may well not be the “most important meal of the day,” especially when it comes to weight loss.

Researchers at Columbia University recently divided people into three groups in an attempt to find the answer. One group skipped breakfast entirely, while the other group ate oatmeal for breakfast and a second group ate Frosted Flakes.

The results?

Overweight people who skipped breakfast were the only group that lost weight.

The recent study is in direct opposition to one reported in the journal Obesity in 2007, involving a study of more than 20,000 men in the United States, which found that those men who ate breakfast were less likely to gain weight over time as opposed to those who skipped breakfast. It is this very study and others that led the U.S. Dietary Guidelines advisory committee to support the fact that skipping breakfast causes weight gain by preventing overeating later in the day.

Should you eat breakfast?

So, what’s a person to think who has been sitting at the breakfast table for years? Is it really all about weight? What are the benefits?

“No, it’s not all about weight gain. Studies regarding the benefits of breakfast and weight gain are contradictory. Outcomes in other studies show consistently that children and adults who eat breakfast have better brain function, attention span and memory.

Also, it is important to take morning medications as ordered. And some medications, like insulin and oral diabetic medications, need to be taken with meals,” said Sheila Sullivan RD, a registered dietitian in Food and Nutrition Services at Baystate Medical Center.

When it comes to growing kids, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says breakfast is important. They say studies have shown that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and few hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher, they concentrate better, solve problem more easily, and have better muscle coordination. And, adults have some of these same benefits.

Quick Tips

In our increasingly hectic and busy world, people often leave home in a rush with no time for breakfast.

Quick and easy breakfasts can still be healthy, noted Sullivan.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests:

  • Whole grain waffles topped with fresh fruit.
  • English muffin sandwich with low fat cheese and low sodium slice deli ham. Warm in the microwave to melt the cheese.
  • Cut up some fresh fruit and add to an unsweetened breakfast cereal.
  • Scrambled eggs can be cooked in the microwave.
  • Peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with a banana.

“Breakfast is an opportunity to get important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It can be quick and easy,” said Sullivan.