TORONTO – It was the steadfast diet advice: if you’re trying to lose weight, always make sure to eat breakfast to get your metabolism going – skipping the first meal of the day only sets you back. But now, new research is turning this guidance on its head.
Instead, U.S. researchers say passing on breakfast doesn’t help or hurt your weight loss goals.
“Previous studies have mostly demonstrated correlation, but not necessarily causation,” co-author Emily Dhurandhar said in a statement.
“In contrast, we used a large, randomized, controlled trial to examine whether or not breakfast recommendations have a causative effect on weight loss, with weight change as our primary outcome.”
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The study’s based on 309 overweight and obese people between 20 and 65 years old. They were split into three groups – one who ate breakfast before 10 a.m.; another who couldn’t eat any calories before 11 a.m. and a third group that wasn’t given any instructions. That third group was made up of 52 regular breakfast eaters and 44 people who always skipped breakfast.
The participants weren’t handed instructions on what to eat or even how much to exercise. They were only given government pamphlets on healthy eating habits.
Their weight loss was tracked for 16 weeks – turns out, eating breakfast or skipping breakfast didn’t make a difference.
Study co-author Dr. David Allison said he hopes his findings might dispel the common belief that your first meal of the day helps with weight loss.
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“The field of obesity and weight loss is full of commonly held beliefs that have not been subjected to rigorous testing; we have now found that one such belief does not seem to hold up when tested,” he said.
Skipping breakfast may not hurt your weight loss efforts but it isn’t good for your health either.
“Long-term, [skipping breakfast] is not the best strategy. You may not want to eat breakfast but you need all the nutrients that breakfast can provide,” Keith Ayoob, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told CBS News.
“It’s not always about weight. I always encourage people to eat breakfast. I want people to eat a healthy diet and breakfast is often a meal of habit,” he explained.
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It’s also a meal that’s easy to include whole grains, fruit and some dairy, which may gave been where the study was lacking: it didn’t zero in on what the participants were eating for breakfast and for the rest of the day.
Its full findings were published Thursday night in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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