Monday, February 20, 2017

To Breakfast or Not To Breakfast

After several studies were released a few years ago, this nutrition website was just one of many to assure us that breakfast had been declared optional.  It is not your most important meal as we had been told in the past.  If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, skip it.  At the time of the article about 25% of Americans were regularly skipping breakfast.

That conclusion was based on a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  A number of studies came out about the same time in response to the number of people skipping breakfast as a way to lose weight.  They were not losing weight, and some experts worried that the act of skipping breakfast was putting their health in jeopardy.  This new research was intended to reduce that worry.

Researchers found that although studies showed that people who ate breakfast tended to be healthier on average, no one had proven a causal relationship.  It could be coincidence or it could be that breakfast eaters just had healthier habits overall.  Higher-quality studies show that it makes no difference whether people eat or skip breakfast.”

From a standpoint of weight loss, skipping might hold a slight benefit.  Whether you eat or skip breakfast has no effect on the amount of calories you burn throughout the day.”  If you are hungrier at lunch and eat a little more, it will usually not be enough to offset all the calories missed from skipping breakfast.

Furthermore they said, “Skipping breakfast is a part of many intermittent fasting protocols. Intermittent fasting can have numerous health benefits.”

But that article and a similar one from the Huffington Post came out three years ago, February 2014.  Things have changed since then.  This latest article, also from the Huffington Post, tells us that eating breakfast does make a difference after all.  The headline reads:  “Skipping Breakfast Could Increase Your Risk Of Heart Disease.”  New research from the American Heart Association says people who eat breakfast daily are more likely to avoid common risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.  Those who skip also are more prone to experience other risk factors like obesity, poor nutrition, diabetes or high blood sugar.

They add that the timing of meals may affect the body’s internal clock and it’s smarter to eat more calories earlier in the day than at night.  By doing so and eating a sensible balanced diet, you “reduce the odds of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac or blood vessel diseases.”

I use the Huffington Post as an example, but I’m sure it’s true of most other news organizations.  They report these new studies, but rarely point out the obvious conflict with information they have previously published - in this case, only three years ago.  Nor do they try to reconcile the apparent contradictions.  It’s up to us to sort it out.  (I found a nice exception to this here at Forbes.  That same article mentions that the health benefits of intermittent fasting have been exaggerated.)

It may have been in response to the news of 2014, or just to the increasingly hectic pace of life, that the proportion of adults in America routinely skipping breakfast has now climbed to about 30 percent.  

Until they get this sorted out, I think I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing.  I have time for breakfast and eat a nice bowl of bran flakes, sometimes with a little fruit.  Teachers insist that kids who miss breakfast are less attentive in school, so it seems a smart lifestyle choice, an easy answer for anyone who can just be organized enough to find the five or ten minutes it takes to fill a bowl and eat it.  Meanwhile, it makes no sense to stress over whether or not to eat breakfast, as the experts can't seem to agree. And another study will be along soon.

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