There’s some big news out in the land of nutrition today, folks. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), one of the staple academic journals used in my profession, has released a definitive article stating that there has never been concrete evidence to say that eating breakfast promotes weight loss. As you might imagine, the commentary from the public has been fiery, and reflects confusion, anger, bad science, and a downright “told-ya-so” attitude.
For my entire life, I’ve been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I myself am a breakfast eater and am liable to faint if I don’t get something in my stomach first thing in the morning. In fact, I eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day: oatmeal with crunchy peanut butter and some coconut sugar. Bam, done, on to the rest of my day.
When I counseled patients during my rotations at hospitals and community clinics, though, I found that many of them couldn’t stand the thought of eating something in the morning. Even though it was hard for me to put myself in their shoes, I always respected what their body was telling them and simply encouraged them to try something small, or to eat within a couple hours of waking up.
What bothers me about this article is that it is framed by the goal of weight loss. Once again, the American people are spoon-fed the “ultimate goal” — to lose weight, look great, and forget about what’s going on inside your body. Because this article “proves” that eating breakfast isn’t necessary to drop pounds, it gives the public justification to skip breakfast, even though eating breakfast carries benefits that have nothing to do with your weight. For example, a cohort study of over 29,000 men followed for 16 years showed that those who skipped breakfast had a 21% greater risk than breakfast eaters of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Breakfast is also a great opportunity to help reach your daily fiber goal and keep your “bad” cholesterol in check, which is just another way of being nicer to your heart.
Again — I am an intuitive eater, and I respect others’ choices about what they want to eat, when they want to eat it. For me personally, eating breakfast means that my blood sugar remains stable throughout the day. It means that I have enough glucose in my body to start my day and focus on my tasks at hand. It means that I have enough fuel in my body to bike to work. I will still recommend a balanced breakfast to my patients, as they can tolerate it.
I think what would be more helpful to the public is not whether breakfast will help you to lose weight, but further studies on how it helps to regulate blood sugar and stave off chronic disease. I also wonder how Big Breakfast will respond to this news: will we see a major PR initiative promoting the protein content of bacon and eggs à la Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches? Readers, you already know my opinion on that, and I would encourage you to choose a breakfast that doesn’t come frozen out of a box.
I welcome your comments about this topic!