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How important is breakfast?

The New York Times, in an Aug. 21 article, asks "Is breakfast overrated?" Some recently published studies appear to shatter the image of the morning meal as the most important meal of the day. If you are trying to lose weight or concerned about your energy levels in the morning, the data from these studies may change your perspective on the first meal of the day. The studies all come from the Aug. 20 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Airman 1st Class Brooke Rachocki, a public health technician with the 14th Medical Operations Squadron, cooks bacon for a chapel appreciation breakfast.
Hedrick U.S. Air Force / public domain

The first study is titled: The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The study assigned 309 participants, "otherwise healthy overweight and obese adults", to either skip breakfast or east breaks, in a random fashion. A total of 283 finished the study. The study concluded that whether or not a subject ate breakfast or skipped breakfast has no effect on weight loss.

A second study looked at the effects of eating breakfast on energy balance and health. Participants who ate breakfast showed increased energy in the morning but were found to burn off the calories that they ate for breakfast. The study found that blood sugar levels in the afternoon and evening were more stable for breakfast eaters. Other than that, there were no benefits discovered for either eating or skipping breakfast.

The final study about breakfast in the Journal reviewed existing studies for a consensus on the effects of "breakfast composition and energy contribution on cognitive and academic performance". Only 15 of 102 studies reviewed met the inclusion requirements and just 11 were on topic. The authors describe the data as being of "insufficient quantity and consistency." They do conclude that there is emerging evidence that a good breakfast, providing 20 percent or more of daily energy requirements, "is beneficial to cognitive performance."

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Maybe not. Some of the assumptions for eating a good breakfast could be more opinion than fact.