Breakfast (Oh, dear)

So many opinions about breakfast. So many studies.

Of all the topics in nutrition, one of the most hotly debated is whether breakfast is good, bad or indifferent for people.

The trouble:

  • often, the questions being asked about breakfast are poor
  • the great majority of the studies that have been done are badly designed or inadequate or just unhelpful

First off, right off the top, it is mis-leading and contrary to the over-all health of the population to ever speak at all of any aspect of food or nutrition as to whether it is “good” or “the best choice”.

At this time, in Western societies like Canada, more than half of the population (that is, the majority of people) are dealing with medical conditions that, for best management or treatment, require a therapeutic diet – not just good nutrition.

So, the only possible answer to the question of breakfast is – it depends. Research will not be able to answer that question for you. The right answer for that question even will change for you at various times and circumstances of your life.

For some people, in certain situations, having a good breakfast really does matter a lot to achieving their health goals. For other people, having only a small breakfast or not having breakfast may work well.

The problems with the research are many:

  • when considering long term health topics, for example control of body weight, only very long term studies will be useful – even a year-long study would be marginally useful. It is not uncommon to have studies done for e.g. 4 weeks and then a conclusion given about the effects on weight loss or weight changes. That is just pitifully silly.
  • breakfasts that are high in carbs are different from those low in carbs, and so on. Breakfasts that are liquid and the food processed are different from more whole foods meals. I rarely see studies that give really sensible consideration to this.
  • at present, the cut-off criteria in common use for considering a person to have insulin resistance are not are not very accurate. Using these cut-offs in lab test results means that people who have insulin resistance may well be labelled as having normal metabolism. Whether someone has insulin resistance  or not, and to what degree, makes all the difference in the world when thinking about breakfast and what would be best.
  • simply, some people do well with longer fasting periods and some do not.

(1)  This article gives an over-view of much of the recent research (as of early August/15). However, the discussion shows a number of faults relevant to my points above, so reader beware. I mention this article partly to illustrate my point that what you read in the media about studies on breakfast cannot be taken at face value. You need to reflect on the study design and how the characteristics of the participants, and the specific questions asked, relate to your circumstances.

From The Washington Post, August 10, 2015, by Peter Whorisky  LINK

“The science of skipping breakfast: How government nutritionists may have gotten it wrong”

(2) One of the better studies:

From the University of Missouri-Columbia, reported in ScienceDaily Aug 12,2015  LINK

“Protein-packed breakfast prevents body fat gain in overweight teens”

  • “Leidy and her colleagues fed two groups of overweight teens who reported skipping breakfast between five and seven times a week either normal-protein breakfast meals or high-protein breakfast meals. A third group of teens continued to skip breakfast for 12 weeks.”
  • “University of Missouri researchers compared the benefits of consuming a normal-protein breakfast to a high-protein breakfast and found the high-protein breakfast — which contained 35 grams of protein — prevented gains of body fat, reduced daily food intake and feelings of hunger, and stabilized glucose levels among overweight teens who would normally skip breakfast.”
  • ” “The group of teens who ate high-protein breakfasts reduced their daily food intake by 400 calories and lost body fat mass, while the groups who ate normal-protein breakfast or continued to skip breakfast gained additional body fat,” Leidy said.”
  • ” “These results show that when individuals eat a high-protein breakfast, they voluntarily consume less food the rest of the day. In addition, teens who ate high-protein breakfast had more stable glucose levels than the other groups.” “
  • “Leidy says large fluctuations in glucose levels are associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes among young people, which can make health complications associated with weight gain more intense.”

LINK  to Abstract:

International Journal of Obesity (1 June 2015) | doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.101
L B Bauer, L J Reynolds

“A pilot study examining the effects of consuming a high-protein vs normal-protein breakfast on free-living glycemic control in overweight/obese ‘breakfast skipping’ adolescents”

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