Can Eating Breakfast Really Help You Lose Weight?
How many times have you heard someone say 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day'?
Or how about 'breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper'?
The general consensus seems to be that we should begin the day by filling our stomachs. Many of us wake up starving and do just that, others grab a croissant on the train to work, while some can't face food until at least 12:01pm. Which one are you? And does this breakfasting wisdom still hold true in 2016?
Past studies have repeatedly found that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese, leading to associated health problems such as type 2 diabetes. It is thought that going without eating for long periods of time messes with your metabolism. In simple terms, if you don't feed your body regularly it goes into panic mode, and the next thing you eat - be it a donut or an apple - will be stored as emergency fat reserves rather than processed. Therefore, the conclusion goes, missing breakfast will make you put on weight.
But what if all these studies found was a correlation? Namely, that people who eat breakfast are more likely to practice other healthy lifestyle choices as well, such as getting enough sleep and exercising, and those who skip breakfast do so because they go to bed late, get up late and don't have time to eat or exercise. It could be these other factors that are really to blame for their weight gain.
There's also the possibility that the studies got it backwards, and people who are already overweight tend to start skipping breakfast in an effort to shed a few pounds.
Why Are We Talking About This Again?
A new report by the National Obesity Observatory looks into the relationship between breakfast and weight. The researchers considered the results of previous studies and balanced these against some of our commonly held breakfast-y beliefs.
Previous research looking at children has found that those who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, but the NOO survey points out that the amount of exercise participants did, as well as a range of other factors, was not taken into consideration. However, they do believe that eating breakfast is associated with other healthy choices, and the overall effect can play an important role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
There are fewer studies looking at adults and breakfast, but again the evidence seems to suggest that eating a regular breakfast is connected to a lower risk of obesity. However, the report is reluctant to state that this is a causal relationship, as eating breakfast may just be an indicator of healthy choices being made elsewhere.
So I Can Tuck In Then?
Overall, it appears that skipping breakfast won't necessarily cause weight gain as well as weight loss. As always, things are more complicated than that, and breakfasting is just one lifestyle factor you will need to address if you want to slim down.
Sadly, you can't just grab a slice of carrot cake (that counts as a vegetable, right?) and magically lose 2lbs on the way to work. What you eat is also very important. A full English can add nearly 900 calories to your daily intake, to say nothing of salt and fat, while a bowl of yoghurt and fruit is only around 160 calories. Avoid fruit juice, however. We're just starting to realise that a glass of orange is not much better than a Coke when it comes to sugar content.
Take a look at this video from the BBC to check the calorie, fat and sugar content of your favourite breakfast.