The breakfast debate

As featured in The Kingston Whig-Standard:

One of the first things we look at during the initial consultation with a client is their nutrition and eating habits.  Over the past 27 years as a trainer, I have clearly noted that those who skip breakfast tend to have a higher body mass index [BMI], ingest foods with a higher glycemic index, are less active then the ‘breakfast eating’ demographic and tend to have a higher rate of sick days.  Adding a healthy breakfast to their day has consistently improved the rate of weight loss and allowed for sustained weight management.  There are many studies* that clearly demonstrate that spreading out your calories throughout the day across 4-5 meals vs 2-3 meals results in a lower daily caloric intake, sustained blood glucose levels and is associated with higher intakes of nutrients, fibre and low fat foods. *Breakfast consumption is positively associated with nutrient adequacy in Canadian children and adolescents.

Barr SI1, DiFrancesco L2, Fulgoni VL 3rd3.

I recently read an interesting article in the New Scientist Weekly magazine [March 26 – April 1, 2016; page 39] the front cover read“Load of Waffle: Why breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day.”  A title such as this gets my attention immediately.  No breakfast?  What?  I read on.  James Betts, University of Bath in the UK, has heard about all the benefits of eating breakfast but had not seen evidence to back it.  “The problem is that benefits, although logical sounding, are largely assumptions based on observational studies and had never actually been tested.” “ I was amazed when I started looking for evidence – I thought there would be a lot.”  He decided to take matters in to his own hands and have a closer look at data out there and run some experiments.

He ran a controlled randomized study comparing breakfast eaters [700 calories prior to 11 am] and non-breakfast eaters [nothing but water before 11 am] and it produced a few interesting conclusions. 

  • fasting group ate more at lunch but not enough to counter the 700 cal breakfast missed
  • breakfast group had a significantly higher rate of non-exercise activity thermogenesis [NEAT].  They moved around much more burning more calories
  • levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, were the same at lunch time regardless of whether they ate breakfast or not
  • Breakfast eaters have better control over their glucose levels in the afternoon [Betts wants to probe this further]

I would like to further support the argument for eating a HEALTHY breakfast with these evidenced based facts:

  • eating breakfast and lunch with your family can benefit dietary intake and weight status in adolescents Eating breakfast and dinner together as a family: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and implications for diet quality and weight status.  Larson N, MacLehose R, Fulkerson JA, Berge JM, Story M
  • Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with higher academic performance in youth.  Eating unhealthy foods such as fast food, high sugar confection and soft drinks for breakfast has a negative association with academic performance. Dietary Habits Are Associated With School Performance in Adolescents. Kim SY1, Sim S, Park B, Kong IG, Kim JH,
  • Eating a healthy breakfast results in higher intake of vitamins, nutrients and minerals, improved concentration at school and work, more energy to participate in physical activity and lower cholesterol levels

I have heard every excuse why a client doesn’t eat breakfast but I have never had a complaint about a negative impact on their weight, disease risk or school/work performance once a client starts to regularly eat a healthy breakfast. 

Eating a nutritious breakfast is part of a healthy lifestyle. The word ‘nutritious‘ being the key word. The supported known benefits for eating breakfast outweigh the unknowns easily.  You don’t have to eat a 700 calorie [cal] breakfast but rather a 200- 350 cal meal made up of the fruits, vegetables, protein and low glycemic index carbohydrates.  Be prepared to feel good, perform well and take in a good percentage of your daily requirements for vitamins and minerals! 

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Tracie Smith-Beyak Written by: