Breaking the Breakfast Myth

From a young age onward, I have been told that—no matter what—it is important to consume a hearty breakfast. This idea was incentivized in society in various forms: performing well on standardized tests, sports, music, etc. Being the young child that I was, I blindly accepted this notion and continued to do so for many years. However, it was not until recently that I began to critically reflect on my life and wonder: why is breakfast so important? As children we had been spoon-fed into thinking that breakfast would make us better, but there was no explanation behind it. But no longer would be subject to this ancient breakfast myth! In fact, I remained keen on investigating this so-called “fact” myself.

Eventually, I stumbled upon research done by scientists at Tel Aviv University, which discussed some of the health benefits of having a good breakfast. This study has supported the notion that the timing of a meal has an effect on disease contraction, as well as weight gain or loss. According to Professor Daniela Jakubowicz, one of the researchers in this investigation, “Metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythm… [so] the time of day we eat can have a big impact on the way our bodies process food…”.

In order to justify and test this idea, the researchers divided up a group of 93 obese women into two groups – the “breakfast group” and the “dinner group.” The difference lay in the distribution of calories that each group consumed throughout the day. The “breakfast group” would have a filling breakfast, moderate lunch, and small dinner, while the “dinner group” would have a small breakfast, moderate lunch, and filling dinner. In the end, both diets showed a decrease in the waist-line of the women and improvements in the blood sugar control, although the improvement in the “breakfast group” was noticeably higher. The results showed that research participants had lower levels of insulin, glucose, and triglycerides throughout the day, which translated to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol (Jakubowicz).

On the surface, the results of this experiment would indicate that having a big breakfast is good, while eating a big dinner is bad – is that necessarily correct? Not really. There were some significant flaws in the procedure of this experiment, which in turn may have led to some not-so-true conclusions. For example, this study was only carried out for a duration of 12 weeks, which does not indicate the long-term significance of this alteration on an individual’s health. Additionally, the group which the researchers tested was a small group of women with metabolic syndrome (a combination of factors that would lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease). Thus, this was gender and health-specific, as it did not show results for other types of women or men whatsoever.

Overall, while this experimental alteration produced significant results in the duration of the experiment, it made no indication of how this would affect an “average human being” in an uncontrolled setting. Consequently, universal claims of breakfast holding chief importance are unfounded. My point is not to convince anyone that breakfast is not an important meal of the day. However, I did want to point out some of the flaws in this experiment that, had they been taken into account by the researchers, could have made its findings much more applicable to the general public.


Article by Varun Bahl

Feature Image Source: Medical News Today