Eat up! A Big Breakfast Is Good for You
In the past, the conventional wisdom among nutrition experts was that the timing of caloric intake—in other words, WHEN you eat—makes no difference in weight management. What matters, we were told, is the total number of calories consumed in a 24-hour period.
But in recent years, evidence has accumulated that an even older belief—that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—may be true. Eating a bigger breakfast—balanced with a lower-calorie dinner—may be a more effective weight loss strategy for people who are overweight or obese.
Noting that few scientists have examined the issue of “time-of-day nutrient intake” and risk of metabolic syndrome, the authors of a recent study recruited overweight or obese women with the metabolic syndrome. As you may know, the metabolic syndrome is loosely defined as a cluster of conditions that are known to increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease and/or diabetes. Qualifying conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, large waist circumference, abnormal blood lipids (e.g. high cholesterol), and insulin resistance.
The women were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first ate a big breakfast (about 700 calories!) followed by a more modest lunch (500 calories) and a low-calorie dinner (200 calories), for three months. The second group ate a small breakfast (200 calories), followed by a medium-calorie lunch, capped by a large dinner (700 calories). As you can see, all the women ultimately ate the same number of calories each day. Only the timing was different. Even so, the women who ate big at the start of the day, and lightly at the end of the day, lost significantly more weight. Not only did they lose than skimpy breakfast eaters, they also dropped more inches from the waist and their “mean hunger scores” were lower, too. Which means they weren’t as hungry throughout the day as light breakfast eaters.
Jakubowicz D, Barnea M, Wainstein J, Froy O. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Mar 20. doi: 10.1002/oby.20460. [Epub ahead of print]