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Your mother was right (she knew it all along). It turns out that breakfast is probably the most important meal of the day.
There are a number of reasons that you should make a healthy breakfast part of your life. When you consider that you had dinner at 6:00 or 7:00 the night before and you might get up for breakfast at 6:00 A.M. you have already gone about 12 hours without eating. Not having breakfast and waiting until your “coffee break” or lunch adds even more time. By the time you get around to eating it could be that your body has been starving for as long as 18 hours.
We now have a lot of research showing that extended periods of starvation can change your metabolism. The body effectively slows down to preserve the calories that it has stored, since there's a perceived lack of calories coming in. The science shows that this can affect how easy it is for you to lose weight.
Some scientists have shown that increasing how often you eat can promote more efficient use of the calories that you take in. It does appear this will make weight control easier. We don't have clear research to tell us how often to eat but those who do eat smaller portions more frequently have an easier time controlling their weight.
Likewise, the research shows that in people who are overweight, eating a larger portion of your daily calories before noon instead of later in the day results in greater weight loss.
It also appears that the type of breakfast makes a difference in how easy it is to lose weight. In one research study, participants who ate cereals, quick breads or muffins had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) when compared to those having meat and eggs. (The meat and egg eaters tended to eat more calories, however). Having whole grain and cooked cereals fared better for folks than ready to eat cereals or muffins.
A lot of studies have shown that those who skip breakfast have a higher BMI. Likewise, there's good research showing that breakfast eaters with a lower Body Mass Index are more likely to eat their meals more regularly throughout the day.
The question is, “Are those people who eat more regularly through the day snacking more?” We have all heard about how “grazing” on small meals through the day might be better. When snacking is looked at in those who eat breakfast, studies show that those who eat early are not as likely to snack as breakfast-skippers. When the breakfast-eaters do snack, the research indicates that they tend to snack more sensibly.
There are a lot of other studies showing that having a healthy breakfast helps with other health issues. One of my favorite pieces of research shows that women who don't eat breakfast have higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Those women also had developed problems in how their insulin responds to eating. As I have written before, such changes in insulin response are linked to heart disease and diabetes.
So your mom was right (and probably about more than just breakfast). Get your day started right!
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
April 2, 2007