Skipping Breakfast Didn't Matter for Weight Loss

Weight management may not be affected by skipping or eating breakfast regularly

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many nutritionists tout the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast each morning, linking it to better weight management. Can the first meal of the day truly tip the scale in your favor?

Some studies suggest that breakfast may help the body better regulate energy intake throughout the day and that skipping breakfast may lead to more food intake later in the day, which may ultimately result in packing on the pounds.

While eating a healthy breakfast may have benefits, a new investigation has found that neither skipping the morning meal regularly nor eating it on a steady schedule appeared to affect weight.

"Eat healthy meals and restrict calorie intake to help lose weight."

Emily Dhurandhar, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her colleagues analyzed the effects of breakfast habits on 283 overweight and obese adults who were trying to lose weight.

Participants, who were otherwise healthy except for their weight, ranged in age from 20 to 65. They were assigned to one of three groups: those told to eat breakfast regularly (before 10 a.m.), those told to skip breakfast every day (no calories before 11 a.m. each morning) and those in a control group. While control group individuals were given general information about healthy nutrition, they included both breakfast skippers and eaters who were not given any instructions on either eating or skipping breakfast.

After 16 weeks, the researchers observed no significant weight loss among either breakfast skippers or eaters.

“A recommendation to eat or skip breakfast for weight loss was effective at changing self-reported breakfast eating habits, but contrary to widely espoused views this had no discernable effect on weight loss in free-living adults who were attempting to lose weight,” the authors concluded.

In a press release, Dr. Dhurandhar said, “We should try to understand why eating or skipping breakfast did not influence weight loss, despite evidence that breakfast may influence appetite and metabolism."

She noted that the length of the study (16 weeks) was a limitation, and future research may examine effects over a longer period. There were also no specific restrictions given on types of foods that could be consumed for the morning meal. Dr. Dhurandhar suggested that further investigations focus on how specific dietary recommendations for breakfast may impact weight loss.

In the fall of 2013, scientists at the University of Alabama in Birmingham reviewed 92 studies about the effect of breakfast on obesity and found that much of the research has led to exaggerated beliefs about the supposed effects of breakfast on obesity.

This study was published June 4 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study's authors disclosed various financial relationships, although not for the support of this study, with a number of food manufacturers and other organizations, including Kraft Foods, Kellogg, the Dairy Research Institute, General Mills, McDonalds and others. None of these organizations were involved in any aspect of this study.

Review Date: 
June 4, 2014
Last Updated:
June 4, 2014