Breakfast Yes or No: The Yo-Yo Effect of Research Studies

Breakfast is a yes or no depending on the research study you read and, like the yo-yo effect of dieting, it makes it hard to know what to do. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has suggested that not having breakfast may be OK when on a diet for weight loss.

Emily Dhurandhar, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the University Alabama, was the main scientist leading the study. She and her colleagues enrolled 309 either overweight or obese subjects in the study. The subjects participated in the study for 16 weeks.

This new study was designed as a clinical trial and therefore is thought to be of higher quality for producing reliable outcomes. In a clinical trial, patients are randomized into groups with some groups being the experimental groups and some being controls. In this study, a group ate breakfast another group did not, and a third group either ate or did not eat breakfast according to their usual habits. Then the health attribute of weight was measured and the means of the weights for the three groups were compared.

The study only looked at weight loss averages among the three groups and not at other health attributes. The results showed that the dieters who did eat breakfast did not lose more weight than those who skipped breakfast, which would have been in agreement with previously reported studies. Instead, both groups lost about the same amount of weight after the 16 weeks of the study.

Previous studies have shown an influence of eating breakfast on appetite and metabolism, with eating breakfast helping to curb the appetite later in the day and produce changes in metabolism throughout the day. The research study results on saying yes or no to breakfast mean there are yo-yo effects in terms of which outcomes are important and reliable. If the appetite is curbed as a result of eating breakfast, there should be weight loss to go along with that.

In this clinical trial study, all three groups were given the same recommendation about what constitutes a healthy breakfast, but none of the three groups was told what exactly to eat for breakfast. The participants who ate a breakfast ate whatever they wanted, whether it was a usual breakfast food or not. Also, none of the three groups were given strict diet rules. The researchers did not record what the participants ate at any meal throughout the 16 weeks. The study simply consisted of giving instructions on whether to eat breakfast, do not eat breakfast or do what you usually do, and then weight was measured. The reported study would not be considered as a controlled intake study.

Saying yes or no to breakfast should not just be about the effect of weight loss and yo-yo dieting because research studies say it is also about nutrition. Breakfast is an important meal to provide the body with nutrients that can be used for energy during the day.

By Margaret Lutze

CBS News
Parent Herald

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