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More reason to eat breakfast?
The breakfast controversy, such as it is, continues. Skipping meals is a common weight loss strategy, and it seems like breakfast is the one people most often skip. I understand why people do it: We typically eat three meals a day, so if you don't eat one of those meals, you must be eating fewer calories, right?

Lose More Weight with a Big Breakfast
I've said for years that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast appears to reduce your metabolism while actually delaying fat burning and increasing fat deposition. Having a higher-fiber breakfast of quickbreads or cereal not only helps you remain satisfied for longer, you'll eat your other meals more regularly throughout the day.

Start Your Kids Out Right
I've said over and over that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It keeps your metabolism up, helps you avoid injudicious snacking, and keeps you satisfied until lunch so that you don't overeat. People who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories throughout the day and tend to have higher Waist to Hip ratios and higher Body Mass Indices than those who eat breakfast.


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Adolescents should not skip breakfast

Pumpkin Nut Muffins, a high-fiber breakfast

Skipping breakfast seems to be ubiquitous, at least in the Western world, and kids between the ages of 13 and 17 (adolescents) are notorious for going to school without any food on board.

While I can sympathize with their lack of time in the morning and the concerns they may have about their weight, I still recommend that you have breakfast.

A manuscript recently accepted for publication in the British Journal of Nutrition (doi:10.1017/S0007114520003992) suggests that skipping breakfast may have negative effects on kids' health - including excess body weight and poor cholesterol, fasting insulin, and glycemia scores.

Researchers in Brazil analyzed data gathered through the Study of Cardiovascular Risks in Adolescents (ERICA - Estudo de Riscos Cardiovasculares em Adolescentes) - a cross-sectional study that examined the presence of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular risk factors in a sample of 12 to 17-year-olds recruited from both public and private schools in larger cities across Brazil.

With consent from both the children and their parents, the researchers gathered data for ERICA between March 2013 and December 2014, utilizing questionnaires administered to the adolescents using a hand-held "Personal Digital Assistant". The participants' height, weight, and waist circumference were measured and blood samples were collected to allow their cholesterol and other metabolic scores to be analyzed.

One of the questions the children answered was about breakfast: in response to the question, "Do you have breakfast?" the adolescents could choose from options ranging from "I don't have breakfast" to "I have breakfast almost every day."

Almost 37,000 participating adolescents were evaluated for this study: overall, 68.7% skipped breakfast while 45.2% were physically active and 20.5% reported screen time of at least 6 hours per day. For their results, the authors took into account age, gender, type of school attended (public vs. private), levels of physical activity, and other variables.

Compared to those who ate breakfast regularly, those who skipped breakfast were 30% more likely to be overweight or obese and were 14% more likely to have clinically high total cholesterol. Adolescents who skipped breakfast were also more likely to have high insulin and blood glucose scores than those who did not skip breakfast.

What this means for you

Being overweight and having poor cholesterol, insulin, and glucose scores are all too likely to follow children into adulthood, which can lead to significant health problems later in life.

While this is a cross-sectional study and thus can't alone prove that skipping breakfast caused these poor outcomes, I've reported on other studies in adults linking skipping breakfast to poor metabolic scores. Breakfast doesn't have to be an elaborate meal: a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter or a high-fiber muffin are easy to grab on the go. Try my Blueberry Muffins, Banana Nut Muffins, or Raisin Bran Muffins.

First posted: October 14, 2020