FRIDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Skipping breakfast may not
sabotage your waistline after all, a small, new study suggests.
For years, people have been told that breakfast is the most
important meal of the day, and that missing it would encourage them
to eat more later and pack on the pounds as a result.
Now, a study of 24 normal-weight college students suggests that
you may actually consume fewer calories if you skip breakfast. The
findings are published in the July issue of the journal
Physiology and Behavior.
But several nutritionists were quick to caution that there are
other important reasons to eat breakfast every day, and that the
new findings don't apply to everyone.
As part of the study, researchers either fed breakfast to or
withheld breakfast from a group of students. Half of the
participants ate breakfast regularly, while the other half did not.
They then measured how many calories the participants consumed
during the rest of the day. Lunch was served buffet-style, and they
were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.
Students who ate breakfast regularly were hungrier on the days
they skipped the meal, but they did not overcompensate by eating
more at lunch or at any other time during the day. They actually
consumed 408 fewer calories on the days they bypassed the morning
"If you are a breakfast eater and we take it away, you will be hungrier, but you won't overeat at subsequent meals," said study author Dr. David Levitsky, a professor of nutritional sciences and psychology at Cornell University. "You can skip breakfast and not feel that you will become overweight."
School-aged children are advised to eat breakfast so they can
concentrate in class; the new study did not look at how skipping
breakfast affects the ability to learn and think.
Christine Santori, lead nutritionist at the Center for Weight
Management at Syosset Hospital in Syosset, N.Y., said it's caloric
quality that is important to overall health and weight control, not
just caloric intake.
"I have found ... that those who skip breakfast and go into the rest of the day very hungry tend to make high-fat choices, with compromised fruit and vegetable intake," Santori said.
Skipping breakfast also can lead to feelings of low energy and
fatigue, which may result in lower overall activity levels. "For
overall health, well being and weight control, I recommend
consuming a healthy breakfast daily," she said.
The new study also was conducted on normal-weight individuals
and may not translate to overweight or obese people, Santori said.
"Skipping meals as a behavior has been strongly linked to obesity,"
A recent study in the journal
Circulationshowed that men who skip breakfast may be more
likely to have a heart attack than men who eat breakfast every
morning. The study authors speculated that missing the morning meal
leads to weight gain and other heart disease risk factors
associated with obesity.
"The [Cornell] study does not change my recommendation to start the day with breakfast," said registered dietitian Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. The study was small and took place in a lab, so the findings can't be generalized to real-life eating settings, she said.
Another expert agreed.
"Based on this small study, we can't say that it doesn't matter whether you eat breakfast as far as weight control goes for the average person," said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. "There are many reasons why you should eat breakfast that are not related to caloric intake."
Get some tips on how to eat healthy throughout the day from the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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