It’s become a pretty common belief in the health world that skipping breakfast is bad news, especially if you’re trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight. But when you really take a look at the science behind the supposedly hard and fast rule, you start to realize that there really isn’t that much there. Skipping breakfast may not always be such a bad thing – especially if you’re just not that hungry in the morning.
Some of the first research to debunk the common “don’t skip breakfast or you’ll gain weight” ideology that has reigned supreme for some time popped up around 2013. The study, led by University of Alabama at Birmingham’s David Allison, Ph.D., basically took a close look at 92 different studies that looked at the relationship between breakfast and obesity and found that the research, for the most part, drastically overstated the effect of breakfast on weight control. And while it did find that obesity and skipping breakfast often overlapped, the issue was that the relationship between breakfast and weight had always been based on correlation as opposed to hard evidence that proves causation one way or the other.
“Although we know that breakfast-skippers are more likely to be overweight or obese, we do not know if making breakfast-skippers eat breakfast would decrease their weight,” said author Andrew Brown, Ph.D., in the study. “Nor do we know if making breakfast-eaters stop eating breakfast would cause them to gain weight.”
Then there was another study in 2014 that asked test subjects who usually skipped breakfast to start eating it, and those who did to stop. Interestingly, the controlled trial found that regardless of breakfast habits, weight loss remained pretty consistent across the board.
So the real problem is that breakfast has become less about hunger and more about necessity, despite there not being a whole lot of evidence in support of the notion. And when people who aren’t hungry in the morning or who don’t usually eat breakfast start having it just for the sake of being healthy, things can go in the opposite direction and the result might actually be weight gain.
Weight aside, there is definitely some science out there in favor of breakfast, like research that suggests skipping breakfast may be associated with a higher risk of stroke, and plenty more evidence in support of why a balanced breakfast is important to your overall health.
Even so, the most important rule when it comes to the breakfast/weight debate may also be the most straightforward: if you’re hungry, eat it. If not, skipping really isn’t the worst thing.