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To eat or to skip breakfast? What the science says

Nov 28, 2022

Breakfast is typically referred to as the most essential meal of the day, but is skipping it detrimental to one's health? Recent studies reveal that this may not be as bad as many think.

Four cross-sectional studies have identified breakfast as the most frequently skipped meal among children and adolescents in Malaysia.

According to Herbalife Nutrition's Asia Pacific Breakfast Habits survey, 75 percent of Malaysian respondents believe that having a daily healthy breakfast is vital. The challenges to eating a healthy breakfast include that better breakfast options are expensive (30%), they do not matter to them (28%), and they are not easily accessible (26%). However, many people have changed their breakfast habits due to the current scenario, with 52% of Malaysian respondents ensuring they eat a nutritionally balanced breakfast, 50% drinking more water at breakfast, and 47% including more fresh food.

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

The solution, like most things in nutrition, is complicated. While some study indicates that skipping breakfast is not detrimental, other evidence suggests otherwise. Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, provides more opportunities throughout the day to supply the body with the energy and nutrients it requires to function optimally.

However, if a person can get their nutrients from other meals, breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day.

Evidence in support of eating breakfast

The majority of the purported benefits of having breakfast come from observational research, which cannot prove cause and effect.

For example, a 2021 systematic review of 14 observational studies discovered that people who have breakfast seven times per week have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stroke, abdominal obesity, cardiovascular-related death, and high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Again, this study can only suggest that those who eat breakfast are less likely to develop the aforementioned cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses. It cannot show that breakfast is the cause.

However, another study of over 30,000 North Americans found that people who skip breakfast may be deficient in critical nutrients.

The most prevalent nutrients that people who missed breakfast lacked were folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, C, and D).

Furthermore, a 2017 randomized control trial that included 18 patients with type 2 diabetes and 18 healthy participants discovered that missing breakfast affected circadian rhythms in both groups.

Those who missed breakfast also saw higher blood glucose rises after eating. The study's authors concluded that eating breakfast is critical for keeping our internal clock on track.

Are people who eat breakfast healthier?

One observational study from 2018 found that those who consistently eat breakfast tend to pay more attention to their total nutritional consumption, engage in regular physical exercise, and effectively manage stress.

Those who miss breakfast, on the other hand, have more unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as regular smoking and drinking. They also have higher fat, cholesterol, and calorie diets than regular breakfast eaters.

These results imply that lifestyle choices may influence the overall health of breakfast eaters as well as those who skip it.

Should you eat breakfast?

Breakfast is an important meal since it allows us to feed our bodies with nutrients. Recent research suggests that it may not be the most essential meal of the day.

If you wake up hungry in the morning, eating breakfast and paying attention to your hunger cues is critical. There is no need to feel guilty if you become busy and skip breakfast one day.

If you often miss breakfast, it's crucial to ensure your nutritional intake at other meals is optimized.

Conclusion

Breakfast is still crucial, despite evidence suggesting that it is not the most important meal of the day. It provides an opportunity to power the day and give critical nutrients that the body needs.

However, there is no reason to feel bad if you skip breakfast, and there is no evidence that it will harm your health.

What matters is that you eat in a way that works for you while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring your nutrient needs are covered during your other meals.

If you are having difficulty meeting your dietary needs, consider visiting a qualified dietician who can assist you with any issues you may have.

References

  1. Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/is-breakfast-really-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day
  2. Mustafa N, Abd Majid H, Toumpakari Z, Carroll HA, Yazid Jalaludin M, Al Sadat N, Johnson L. The association of breakfast frequency and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors among adolescents in Malaysia. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 28;11(5):973.
  3. Survey: 75% of Malaysians Agree that A Healthy Breakfast is Important. Available at: https://www.healthmatters.com.my/survey-75-of-malaysians-agree-that-a-healthy-breakfast-is-important/

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