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Are the Benefits of Breakfast Just an Urban Legend?

A pair of recent studies suggest that skipping breakfast may not negatively alter your metabolism, but also may not help you to lose any weight, either.

The old adage that skipping breakfast leads to weight gain turns out to be groundless. The Bath Breakfast Project was a randomized controlled trial in which 33 British adults were randomly assigned either to eat or to skip breakfast every day for six weeks. The breakfast eaters were instructed to eat at least 700 calories before 11 am, preferably half of that within two hours of getting up.

Contrary to expectations, the scientists did not find that people who ate breakfast ate less later in the day. In fact, they ate a bit more, but they were also more physically active, especially in the morning. There were no changes in metabolic rate, appetite regulating hormones or weight between the two groups.

The scientists did find that the breakfast group had improved insulin sensitivity and more stable blood sugar throughout the day. They concluded that breakfast eaters are likely to be more active, thereby making up for the extra calories they consume in the morning. They also suggested that people who eat breakfast may also maintain other habits that could contribute to weight control and good health.

 [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August, 2014]

The very same issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition contained another study in which people were randomized and told either to eat or skip breakfast to boost weight loss. The ones who were told to eat breakfast were more likely to report that they did so, but unfortunately they lost no more weight than the ones told to skip the morning meal.

A meta-analysis hinted that what’s in breakfast might make a difference for cognitive function. It seems possible, though it is not proven, that a breakfast that does not raise blood sugar much may help both children and adults pay attention and learn better. If you would like recommendations on how to put such a breakfast on the table in the small amount of time you have in the morning, you may be interested in our informative cookbook, Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy. In it, you’ll learn how to make Joe’s Brain-Boosting Smoothie or an Anti-Inflammatory Curcumin Scramble.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I believe it is the physical activity that improves insulin sensitivity and not the food. I am a diabetic, for me the increase in blood sugars from my liver, to get me going in the morning, is not met by an insulin surge to get those sugars into my muscles. Eating breakfast just compounds the injury, thereby increasing the amount of insulin I need to shoot. Additionally, I stopped breakfast, for the most part, when I was 8 years old, when given a choice. As a kid I had some juice and milk in the morning, all I could stomach. I would have skipped both; however, my mother did not allow me to get out of the house without something in my stomach. Once on my own, no more anything but a cup of coffee in the morning.
Because of emotional reasons, I allowed myself to get very fat. Almost four years ago, I began losing weight, now 44 pounds. Without eating breakfast and with eating most of my food at night. But I usually have lunch two to three hours after getting up.

I’m such a believer in breakfast & I know that when I started eating breakfast years ago, my life improved. I think the beginning statement of asking them to eat 700 calories before 11 am is ridiculous. I eat a very good breakfast of two eggs and toast with jam & butter for 330 calories. It helps my nerves.
There are many people that can get ballistic when they need food & don’t have any idea what’s wrong with them. I’ve watched some folks take one bite of food & immediately calm down. Break the Fast. Your body needs food after that many hours.
Of course what I’m saying has nothing to do with gaining or losing weight particularly, but I’m not famished and grabbing anything in sight when I’ve had a good breakfast with protein. Just saying….

At 6’3 and a muscular 210 lbs. My diet is critical to my job and I can say that I have not had breakfast in 20 years. If I do happen to wake up hungry then it will be one hard boiled egg. For me, carbs in the morning make me sleepy and ruin my day.

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