5 common myths about breakfast

Myth 1. Eating breakfast boosts our metabolism.

The best scientific evidence we have shows our resting metabolic rate is not increased by eating breakfast. Indeed, research shows that even not eating anything prior to midday for 6 weeks straight does not impair our resting metabolism.

Myth 2. Eating breakfast means we eat less calories in total throughout the day.

This is not only unproven, we actually know the exact opposite is true: we eat more. This makes good sense, because when we skip breakfast, we are skipping the intake of a significant amount of calories.

Myth 3. Purposely skipping breakfast is a good strategy for weight loss.

The largest and longest study to compare the effectiveness of skipping vs. eating breakfast on weight found that skipping breakfast:

  • does not result in any significant weight loss, and
  • does not have any significant effect on our weight compared to eating breakfast.

Just because eating breakfast does not increase our metabolism, and can mean we eat more calories in total, does not mean that we should purposely skip it.

Myth 4. When we eat is more important than what we eat.

What and how much we eat is, in my view, what matters most:

  • Whilst breakfast eaters have higher nutrient intakes than breakfast skippers, high nutrient intake is (of course) dependant on eating more nutrient-rich foods.
  • Whilst breakfast eaters have better long-term health than breakfast skippers, good health is (of course) dependant on eating healthier foods.

Myth 5. There is a ‘correct’ time to eat for everybody.

Research shows that one of the most consistent predictors of body weight (outside of genetics!) is the driver of what makes us eat:

  • When we eat in reaction to our external environment and emotions, we are more likely to overeat.
  • When we eat in response to our internal hunger signals, we are less likely to overeat.

Being more conscious about eating according to hunger is one of the most effective strategies we have to prevent overeating.

For me, the biggest problem with advice about eating or skipping breakfast is that it gives the impression we must be eating at a certain time.

In general, we actually don’t.

For most of us, eating is best done by listening to the hunger signals of our body, and not by worrying about what the time is on our clock.

2 responses

  1. I love your little myth buster posts. It’s amazing how quickly and naively society adopt new diet concepts based on the latest findings, so this was a refreshing read.
    You make the concept of hunger seem so simple. It should be that simple, but for many it unfortunately isn’t.
    Many have lost their sense of what true, innate hunger actually feels like. Why? Many reasons…
    Hormonal fluctuations can cause appetite changes, as can medications. Emotions certainly intercept our natural hunger cues…some people can’t eat when they’re stressed, whilst others eat uncontrollably. Certain foods also skew our appetites and cravings on a chemical level, such as sugar which can mimic hunger to the point of actually making our stomach growl or mouth over-salivate in its presence. Then there’s eating disorders, a whole other dimension to the story…
    We have on many levels lost our natural instinct thus making our bodies true hunger cues increasingly difficult to tune into.
    I think at the end of the day we can only do our best; try to tune into what our bodies need and find a logical balance with our lifestyles and food intake.
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    Keep ‘me coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! Yes, there has been some recent high quality clinical trials done in this space, that have contradicted the assumptions many made from cross-sectional studies. We often see this in nutrition, as the quality and quantity of the evidence improves over time.

    Indeed, hunger is most complex. It is poorly covered in the scientific literature too, as it is a subjective measure and there are so many factors that influence it. For example, we can say that we are not hungry after dinner, but suddenly very hungry as soon as the dessert menu comes out!

    Although it is complex, your last point sums it up well. Let’s start by practising tuning into and listening to our internal hunger cues more. We don’t do this enough today.

    It’s not easy, but it is important, and a step in the right direction.


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