Why you should never skip breakfast

When you’re trying to lose weight, skipping a meal might seem like the obvious solution. After all, it lowers your calorie intake and that’s a good thing, right?

According to research the answer is no — at least in terms of skipping breakfast…

In fact, skipping breakfast could make you fat and lead to stroke.

In a clinical trial, 17 participants were given 3 different diets over separate 24-hour periods. All the diets were made up of the same structure of nutrients — 55 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 15 percent protein. In between conventional 3 meal structure days, they had a day where they skipped breakfast and another where they skipped dinner. During the study they had the same daily routines — up at 6 am, meals at 7 am, 1 pm and 7 pm, with a bedtime of 10 pm.

Interestingly, for both skipped meal days, energy expenditure was higher, +41 kcal/d for skipping breakfast and +91 kcal/d for skipping dinner.

At first, this seems like exactly what you’d want to achieve — burn more calories so you burn fat faster. For skipping dinner this may well be true, but not for skipping breakfast…

The post-meal blood sugar and insulin levels of those who skipped breakfast were higher than those who skipped dinner.

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Skipping breakfast leads to negative metabolic changes

Other research has shown that skipping breakfast leads to higher 24-hour blood sugar levels as well.

In particular, glucose metabolism is highly dependent on your circadian rhythm, your natural 24-hour body clock. When type 2 diabetics skip breakfast, research has shown that poor glycemic control is often the result.

After skipping breakfast, the participants in this study also showed higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, as would be expected.

One other thing that changed in response to skipping breakfast was a notable increase in pro-inflammatory molecules…

Two particular molecules that frequently cause havoc (interleukin-6 or IL6 and IL-1b) were significantly higher 4 hours after lunch. The researchers suggest that these increases in proinflammatory molecules are caused by changes to various cell signaling pathways.

On top of this, other research has shown that when you skip breakfast, it’s common to consume more at dinner. And after dinner, you also happen to be less active, so you don’t utilize those calories as efficiently as you would be eating them earlier in the day.

So, according to this study, skipping breakfast is never a good idea. Breakfast ignites your flame and when it’s not consumed, low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance and other metabolic issues are promoted. The evidence for dinner is not so clear.

If you do want to try skipping a meal to reduce your calories, perhaps the old adage still rings true: breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper!

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  1. Nas A, et al. Impact of breakfast skipping compared with dinner skipping on regulation of energy balance and metabolic risk. — Am J Clin Nutr. 2017.
Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.