• Wed, Jan 19 2011

Big Breakfasts Aren’t a Recipe for Weight Loss

(photo: flickr user jaybergesen)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day — or so goes the mantra we recite in the morning while downing a second bowl of cereal. Weight loss experts and diet gurus frequently suggest that big breakfasts will help cut daily calorie consumption — one of the few diet principles that most of us can agree to love (especially those of us whose culinary preferences lean towards eggs, waffles, and oatmeal). But a new study suggests that morning indulgence doesn’t actually help our weight loss; in fact, it found that those who eat bigger breakfasts consume more calories than those who don’t.

The study, published in Nutrition Journal, analyzed the two-week food journals of 380 subjects at the University of Munich, 280 of which were obese, and 100 of which were of normal weight. Those who reported having larger breakfasts — about 400 calories more — ended up consuming more calories overall than those who didn’t — about 400 calories more. Lead researcher Dr. Volker Schusdziarra explained: “The results of the study showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast.”

Wheaties breakfast cereal uses the slogan "jumpstart your metabolism," but does science really prove that a big bowl of cereal is the best way to start your day?

So let’s get this straight: To lose weight, you have to use portion control and exercise restraint in the morning, just like at every other meal? And gorging yourself in the morning doesn’t lead to healthier habits during the rest of the day? It’s fairly intuitive when you say it plainly, but why have we been inundated with studies and articles telling us that oversized morning meals are a weight loss boon? TIME reporter Maia Szalavitz says the study “confirms [her] suspicion that the notion of a big breakfast as a weight loss tool may be, well, propaganda for Big Breakfast Food.”

Most breakfast foods are advertised on the merit of their nutritional value, not their size (even McDonald’s doesn’t have the gall to tell us that chowing on their McMuffins will boost our weight loss strategy), but we can’t help but think that Szalavitz is on to something. The German study featured in Nutrition Journal is small in scope and doesn’t provide answers about optimum morning nutrition, but at least it makes us question our ideas about health and nutrition, and where they come from. For every food marketing slogan like “jump start your metabolism,” (from Wheaties) and “the best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup,” there is usually a study that vaguely supports it. But more often than not, we latch on to consumer-friendly theories, like the idea that big breakfasts won’t make us fat, in order to justify overconsumption and unhealthy habits.

Do you believe that big breakfasts make you skinny? Does this study make you want to cut back on your morning bacon habit? Tell us what you think of the Big Breakfast Propoganda theory in the comments section, below:

via TIME

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  • sara

    Hmmm. I’ve never heard a theory that having *big* breakfasts would help with weight loss, just that having breakfast, period, would help with weight loss. A one-serving portion of cereal with skim milk and some fruit, or an egg on a small corn tortilla with hot sauce, or oatmeal with raisins, etc. I usually clock in with a breakfast around 300 calories, which seems reasonable and does give me more energy throughout the day.

  • Valerie

    I’m pretty sure that the theory includes making breakfast your biggest/most nutritious meal of the day and adjusting your other meals to accommodate it. The writer acts like it’s some huge discovery that eating more calories per day doesn’t contribute to weight loss…

  • pukes

    actually, bigger breakfasts full of nutrients DO help weight loss, especially when they’re full of fibre and protein. it fills you up more and you eat less during the rest of the day. there are tons of people that are living proof of this. also, eating your biggest meal of the day at breakfast allows you to burn off all those calories, since you do lots during the day, and around dinner time there’s not much more to do, so you’re just eating like a pig for nothing.

  • Aaron

    I think your assertion that somehow the “mantra” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day translates to it is ok to over-indulge at breakfast is ludicrous. Obviously people who have trouble exhibiting portion control in general may loosely cling to this. However, the numerous weight loss studies that show a larger (nutritious, balanced) breakfast is more effective in weight loss. The proper comparison is say a breakfast of eggs, a slice of a whole grain toast and fresh squeezed juice vs someone scarfing down a white bread bagel and getting a venti frap on the way into work. I think what it comes down to is if people cling to a stusy/mantra/whatever in doing something counter-intuitive to health and say “but they said so” is totally absurd.

  • Perfect Shape

    I really enjoyed reading this article!

    Health should be always our main concern. Try to find the best food products for you. There are a lot of “wonder” products out there that have a lot of benefits for our health. Resveratrol found in grapes, chocolate, peanuts and blueberries should definitely be considered a wonder as it offers numerous health benefits for us, like: longevity, energy, lower blood sugar, weight loss, anti inflammatory etc.

    Bye,