Despite What You May Have Learned, Breakfast May Not Prevent Weight Gain After All

There is a long held belief, shared by myself as well, that consumption of breakfast is an important means to maintaining a healthy body weight. Indeed, empirical support for just such a belief has been provided by large numbers of observational studies. Although more rigorous studies on the correlation between obesity and whether an individual consumes breakfast or not may be lacking, there is clear evidence that individuals who consume breakfast are much less likely to experience nutritional deficiencies compared to those who do not consume breakfast.

A new study published in Nutrition Journal which examined a large cohort of Canadian adults, finds that breakfast consumption was NOT associated with differences in body weight index (BMI) nor the prevalence of being overweight or obese:

Association of breakfast consumption with body mass index and prevalence of overweight/obesity in a nationally-representative survey of Canadian adults

In this study a total of 12,377 adults (18 years of age and older) were surveyed to determine if they were breakfast consumers or not, as well as if they were breakfast consumers, what constituted the type of breakfast consumed. The participants were then divided into breakfast non-consumers, consumers of ready-to-eat cereals, or consumers of other breakfasts. Within the survey participants their mean BMI and prevalence of overweight/obesity was compared among the different breakfast groups, with adjustment for sociodemographic variables (including age, sex, race, marital status, food security, language spoken at home, physical activity category, smoking, education level and supplement use).

The results of this study found that breakfast consumption was not consistently associated with differences in BMI and overweight/obesity prevalence. There were some minor differences between the various groups, for instance the mean BMI was found to be statistically significantly lower in the ready-to-eat breakfast consumers versus the other types of breakfast consumers yet the prevalence of overweight/obesity did not differ significantly from the breakfast non-consumers group.

The TAKE HOME from this large population survey is that it is inappropriate to promote breakfast consumption, in and of itself, as a means for weight management. What is clear from numerous studies is that nutritional status associated with breakfast consumption is higher than in individuals who do not consume breakfast. In addition, just because this particular survey found no significant weight differences between breakfast consumption and non-consumption, it is still pertinent to consider that different types of foods consumed for breakfast may indeed be found to be helpful in overall weight management.

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