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SALT LAKE CITY — You've probably heard at least once that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You may have been told it helps with boosting your metabolism, appetite control and weight loss. The list goes on and on. But what does science really say about the importance of breakfast?
I've been curious about this topic for a while, so I dug into the scientific literature to see what is actually known about the impact of breakfast on our overall health. I narrowed down the research to the impact that eating breakfast has on weight management, mental health and disease prevention. Here's what I found:
The research seems to be split when it comes to determining whether or not eating breakfast is helpful in losing weight. Earlier this year, a study showed eating breakfast had little or no effect on weight. However, another study published in 2017 showed individuals who ate breakfast or started to eat breakfast while participating in a weight-loss program were able to lose 5 percent of their total body weight. This was in comparison to individuals on the same weight-loss program who did not eat breakfast.
When looking at research that discusses possible methods to weight loss, it's important to remember that many different factors play a role. Our genetics, environment, mental health, eating habits and the nutritional content of our food all play a role in weight management. There isn’t one cure-all for maintaining a healthy weight. Simply eating breakfast will not lead to significant weight loss, you have to consider other factors too.
Mental health is an important component of our overall health and it's important to know how our diet and eating habits affect it. In a recent study, researchers found that individuals who consumed breakfast every day had lower odds of experiencing depression compared with individuals who did not regularly eat breakfast. The study showed 45 percent of breakfast skippers experienced depression compared to 25 percent of breakfast eaters. A similar trend was found when looking at anxiety and mental distress. Of course, this doesn’t mean that eating breakfast will solve your mental health concerns, but it may be a helpful tool in managing depression or anxiety in combination with help from a professional mental health care provider.
In 2018, researchers found evidence to support the idea that skipping breakfast may increase a person’s risk for Type 2 diabetes. The Journal of Nutrition reviewed six different studies with almost 100,000 participants and found that as the number of breakfast skipping days increases, so does the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Individuals who skipped breakfast 4-5 days a week were 55 percent more likely to develop diabetes than individuals who skipped fewer breakfasts throughout the week.
It's important to note that this was a review of previous studies and did not try to determine cause and effect between eating breakfast and diabetes — it simply looked at the correlation between the two. The results do suggest that skipping breakfast, along with other factors, may contribute to someone’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
While recent research doesn’t seem to support the common reasons we might usually think of when eating breakfast, there do seem to be some overall health benefits for those who regularly eat breakfast.
So, is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Maybe not. But it does seem to be an important part of a well-balanced diet. Good nutrition includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and dairy products. Using mindful and intuitive eating principles is a great way to balance nutrition facts and your body’s natural ability to determine what is best for you.
Danielle Billat is a local registered dietitian nutritionist and mother. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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