Benefits of breakfast? Strange wording!

I have seen this statement "Studies show that adults and children who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to be overweight than those who don’t..." in a number of places.

I think the wording is really ambiguous - surely if it were clear cut they would say "people who eat breakfast are thinner" or "people who eat breakfast don't put on as much weight" or "having breakfast stops you from overeating (as much) during the rest of the day so you are less likely to gain weight".

The way they have put it "people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight" could essentially mean "overweight people tend to skip breakfast" and - moving on from that could it be that "overweight people skip breakfast in order to try to get thinner".

Or even - "by some coincidence we have found that thinner people eat more regularly than fatter people - but we don't know what the real reason is"

So - written the way it is - I still am not clear whether it is really beneficial to have breakfast or not, in terms of weight maintenance!

Am I just overthinking this? Does it make more sense to others?

When I have breakfast I get ravenously hungry really early and then tend to eat more! So I want to know whether eating breakfast causes increase thinness - or whether it is something pounced on by cereal companies- before changing my habits!

any ideas?

18 Replies

  • Im not sure but i never used to eat breakfast and since dieting i eat breakfast everyday and it has helped me but i have adjusted my whole eating habits so could be a coincidence but i read that eating breakfast helps to kick start your metabolism each day

  • Eating breakfast certainly can't cause thinness! This study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that having breakfast did not ensure weight loss.

    Personally, I like to have breakfast, but I never ever eat cereals, as I find they are guaranteed to give me a carb crash and make me ravenous. I usually start the day with a protein breakfast (eggs, eggs and bacon, or full fat yoghurt).

  • Hi I am a master personal trainer and nutrition counselor. Here's the deal with any meal. It doesn't matter when and how much at a time you eat. If your hungy then eat. All that really matters is by the end of the day your body gets what it needs (your tdee). Your body and muscles are more forgiving than everyone makes it out to be. Yes eating breakfast has some benefits. So does continuing the fast. Depends on what you are trying to do or what you're comfortable with. Rest, lots of water, and give your body what it desires is most important. Giving to little is bad. There are other small tricks, but that's the simple, but truth to loosing or maintaining weight. The rest is people trying to make money

  • You're right that it's vague, but they can only report what the study found.

    There's a little more to eating a breakfast than just preventing hunger - it helps our body clock and kick starts certain processes in our body. That said, it all depends on the individual, what sort of lifestyle you lead and when you eat lunch etc. If breakfast doesn't work for you, then don't worry - so long as you're in control. Generally though, if you eat the right things for breakfast, you shouldn't get too hungry too fast, so it's maybe a case of what you're eating.

    Anyway, I'm just rambling on, haha.

  • I was told wen I was with waistline wen u eat breakfast it starts ur metabolism working so u will loose the weight abit faster not sure how it all works but it did actually work for me for a while

  • it depends what you eat, if you eat sugar loaded cereals you will get hungry sooner as the sugar sets up food craving, if you eat boiled eggs or other type of protein, you will not be hungry until later

    I used to find eating breakfast made me more hungrier then worked out it was the sugar craving not hunger, so changed to fruit smoothies made of yoghurt, fresh fruit and not much else, or a couple of boiled eggs, or scrambled egg, and seem to go until lunch time without too much hunger,

    so maybe it is the food you eat at breakfast and not the time that is important, also bread will make you hungrier earlier, because of the sugar in bread

  • They put it that way because correlation is not the same thing as causation (doesn't mean that it might not be a good idea to eat breakfast just not what the study looked at)

    I am a huge breakfast fan personally. I was reading something the other day which suggested that it is people with a degree of insulin resistance who wake up with no appetite which I thought was very interesting. After all, we all know there are people who really feel they can't face breakfast and there are people who can't face getting up in time to have a decent meal in the morning... and there are people who don't like conventional breakfast foods and haven't yet learned to think outside the box. All different!

  • Thanks to all who replied - I think an experiment of my own is due then!! Various different types of breakfast or none for a number of days and seeing how hungry I am before lunch with each / how much weight I lose vs what I know happens when I don't eat it!!

    I have to avoid gluten (medical not ethical) so definately no breads and probably no cereals (as regular ones contain barley malt usually) and the GF ones are even higher in calories. So maybe fruits / yoghurts / cottage cheese on rice cakes an be my "subjects" for the experiment! Will let you all know what my conclusion is!!

  • You could try eggs. Boiled, poached, scramled. With or without gf toast. No gluten in eggs, lots of protein so they will fill you up and stop you getting hungry again.

    If you dont particularly like eggs and have time at weekend you could try american pancakes: mix cup of gluten free flour with 1 teaspoon gf baking powder and small pinch of salt, add a beaten egg and about quarter of a cup of milk, mix to smooth paste and cook in very hot pan, each pancake about 3to4 inches diameter, turn once when the top has dried but before the bottom has burnt. Quite a few calories so keep some of the pancakes in fridge for later or tommorrow. Useful substitute for bread on a gf diet.

    It is also possible to make these with more egg and less milk to boost the protein content. I aim for 1 cup of flour to total of half a cup of liquid (beaten egg plus milk). Or add dried fruit to add flavour, and get in one of your 5 a day.

    I am big fan of breakfast, the report you mention phrases it like this as it is scientific and can only claim that there is a correlation between thinness and people who eat breakfast. They cannot claim that breakfast causes thinness, just that more people who eat breakfast are thin. Personally I wake up hungry every day and eat breakfast. I am not thin, but probably due to me eating too much later in the day. (Not pancakes btw, they are cooked for my coeliac son :) !)

  • I have to eat gluten free too. If you like the idea of pancakes, try some buckwheat flour to make gallettes like the French do.

  • I never eat breakfast now. When I did I was far hungrier during the day. Two days a week I fast until my evening meal, and the other five days I have a bowl of soup for lunch or a small cheese sandwich and some fruit.

  • I understand the way it's written. As you've translated it, 'people who eat breakfast ARE thinner' is a dogmatic, no argument, statement. Immediately people will produce examples they know of who are just the opposite. 'Tend to' is much less contentious.

  • This relates to type-2 diabetes, though the principles for chronic health are consistent.

    However, if breakfast is stimulating your appetite, it is likely to be something you're eating. Try eating an omelette with a few greens for instance, and you won't get the highs and lows with your blood glucose that cause excess insulin/IGF-1.

    For the longer term, avoid having too much fructose from sugar or fruit, which causes fatty liver and insulin resistance.

    Also avoid foods that stimulate excess insulin/IGF-1 including high-glycaemic foods such as wholemeal or white bread, potatoes, rice, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, cornflakes, and so on. Baked beans and yoghurt, despite their low Gi, are anomalies that cause excess insulin/IGF-1 levels too.

  • Thanks all - a good discussion and more things for me to consider around the breakfast question!

    I am even more convinced now that the statement is something that was just pounced on by cereal corporations! Most people, I think, hearing if for the first time would take it as meaning that eating breakfast has a causitive effect re weight loss.

    Interesting too about the fact that some low GI foods still lead to calories increase in other factors!

  • I do think there's a lot of ambiguity but mainly because journalist have different agendas and don't necessarily put things as well as they might. It's true a decent breakfast helps you not to feel hungry too soon, so you don't go looking for a fill as early. That said a full English all you can eat would be a disaster on its own. You still have to exercise a bit of self control. I've also come to the uncomfortable conclusion that any weight loss attempt will mean you're hungry at least some part of the day. I actually like to wake up hungry (partly because I'm using fat reserves overnight) but there's at least one on this forum who wakes during the night with uncomfortable hunger.

    SO, yes it does but it's not that simple, and cereal manufacturers will tell you anything to get their grubby little paws on your money - short of breaking the law.

    There's evidence that breakfast helps keep the brain alert. Porridge with a few berries and toast without a sweet topping does both for me.

    ps a late evening snack is now porridge. I still sometimes have one and I hope it's better that the old snacks :O

  • "That said a full English all you can eat would be a disaster on its own". Actually, when I went on an all-inclusive recently, some mornings that's exactly what I did have, I just avoided insulin/IGF-1 stimulating foods like bread or baked beans, had moderate amounts of protein such as bacon and eggs, plenty of non-starchy veg, and some natural fat such as cheese and butter. Yum!

    I should just clarify that I don't eat bacon frequently, because it is a processed food.

    These days I am seldom hungry for lunch, but I eat it to spread my intake through the day, so that I'm only having moderate amounts of carbs at each meal for example. That way, I'm replacing what my body uses from glycogen stores without my body being stressed trying to synthesise glucose from protein for example.

    With the higher fat, moderate protein, my body can then return quickly to lowered insulin/IGF-1 levels, enabling it to utilise fat as an energy reserve.

    I'm sorry that many of you have been brain-washed into thinking weight-management should be hard work!

  • Well, I started the day with boiled eggs but was ravenous by 11.30 and had lunch dead on 12! :-( Usually I would be fine even up to 4pm.

    I never really have much of an appetite /have feelings of hunger and rarely feel thirsty (though I try to eat around 2 if at all possible). Today n I haven't been able to stop thinking of food all day! I even had two cooked meals - stir fry for lunch and I was even tempted to eat my evening curry from the pan while cooking it - and I never usually pick while cooking. Usually I would only have a salad for lunch - or, when it is really cold, a homemade soup - with my main meal after work. Yes I know, there are two points of view also as to whether eating late is a good idea or not, but work and commuting leave me no option anyway, even if I fancied eating earlier - which I don't!

    Maybe I'll go breakfast free again tomorrow and try breakfast again on Monday when work will distract me if I do get the early hunger!

  • An interesting argument. I will put another spanner in the works. On the continent adults tend not to have breakfast, just a cup of strong coffee.

    My own view is that I have always had and enjoy a small breakfast, coffee (a must) and a small bowl of mueslie or a slice of wholemeal bread with no spread but a thin layer of marmite or jam; or a poached egg. It starts the day for me, then I relax and focus that I have had enough until lunch. My body does not need anything until lunch. (It's my mind that is telling me I want more).

    You state that if you have a breakfast, you begin to crave for foods inbetween meals. (I have made it a firm rule of mine not to eat between meals). You could work out the triggers for the cravings and find an alternative which does not involve food. Telephone a friend, go for a walk, anything that takes your mind off the food. Logic should tell you that if you have eaten a breakfast your body does not need extra, wait until lunch time. In other words say no to yourself.

    If you skip breakfast that would mean that you do not eat for perhaps 16 hours or more. That's not something I would be able to deal with.

    I believe the plan is not only about losing weight, but also changing the relationship you have with food. Now for me it is to enjoy the food but at the right time and the right amount etc. etc. Not as I have been doing, which has been eat what I want, when I want. So far 1 week of sticking to 3 meals a day no snacking and counting. Feel so proud of myself.

    If you wish to discuss more I would be happy to chat

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