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Should You Skip Breakfast?

If you skip breakfast, you may consume fewer calories, but it is not clear that you will lose weight or live longer.
Should You Skip Breakfast?
Bowl of hot oatmeal breakfast cereal with fresh berries from above

Americans have long been cautioned not to skip breakfast, based on epidemiological findings that breakfast eaters maintain healthier weights and live longer (American Journal of Epidemiology, Nov. 1982; Obesity, Sept. 2015; British Journal of Nutrition, July 14, 2015). But what are the true consequences of not eating breakfast?

Breakfast Skippers Don’t Catch Up on Calories:

A new study shows that people who skip breakfast don’t fully make up the calories they forgo in the morning. The data came from 2,132 participants in the NHANES studies of 2005 and 2010. (NHANES stands for National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and is conducted annually.) In each study year, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire detailing what they had eaten for the previous 24 hours. Those who reported eating breakfast one time but not the other had their food intake for the rest of the day analyzed.

Although the participants made up some of the calories they would otherwise have eaten at breakfast, they didn’t fully compensate. They did eat fewer snacks on days when they ate breakfast. When people ate breakfast, they consumed more fruit and whole grains, presumably from breakfast cereals or breads.

The Take-Home:

The authors conclude:

“…the difference in overall 24-h energy intake between the 2 recalls did not equal the magnitude of omitted breakfast energy. The quality of dietary selections reflected in the energy and macronutrient density of a day’s intake was not different between the breakfast day and no-breakfast day, but fruit and whole grains were lower when breakfast was omitted and should be encouraged at other eating episodes on a no-breakfast day.”

In an accompanying editorial, David Levitsky suggests that the food industry has powerful incentives to encourage Americans to eat breakfast. He suggests that we might all do better to lower our caloric intake through one simple measure-skip breakfast.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Sept. 2015

Should You Skip Breakfast?

This conclusion may prove to be controversial, but not because people eat more if they skip breakfast. They don’t seem to. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2014) But people who eat breakfast as a rule may simply be conscientious folks who are less likely to smoke or drink too much or stay out late. They also seem to have more stable blood sugar during the day, which could be a benefit even if it doesn’t have any impact on weight control.


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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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