Skipping Breakfast

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As we noted two years ago in a Diabetes Flashpoints post on meal timing, one common piece of advice for people with diabetes — and for the general population — is to eat a large breakfast, a medium-size lunch, and a small dinner. The reasoning behind this advice is that consuming more calories earlier in the day gives the body more time to burn them off before sleep, when the metabolism slows. Although not all dietitians agree with this advice, as we noted in the post, there is evidence that eating later in the day leads to metabolic changes that result in fewer calories being burned.

But as is often true in the field of nutrition, there is also evidence that offers a different, nearly opposite message. A study published last month in the journal Physiology and Behavior concludes that skipping breakfast may make it easier to consume fewer calories throughout the day. According to an article on the study in the Los Angeles Times, researchers at Cornell University recruited both students who regularly ate breakfast and those who regularly didn’t as subjects. Without telling them the point of the study, researchers assigned some to eat breakfast on the day of the study and some to skip it. Subjects spent the day at the Cornell Human Metabolic Research Unit, where they were served meals and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, but all food intake was measured. Although subjects who skipped breakfast reported more hunger and ate more food at lunch by an average of 144 calories, their total daily intake was 408 calories lower, on average, than that of subjects who ate breakfast.

Of course, while eating less may be the top goal for some people with diabetes, it is not a goal for everyone and certainly not the only goal that matters. As Web editor Diane Fennell noted in a blog post in June, skipping breakfast can lead to increased insulin resistance in overweight and obese women, potentially increasing the risk of diabetes in people without it and worsening blood glucose control in people with diabetes. And a study published last month in the journal Circulation found that men who skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate breakfast. That same study, however, found an even greater heart risk increase — 55% — from eating late at night.

How do you feel about eating breakfast — does it help you control your blood glucose or keep your energy level consistent throughout the day? Or does skipping breakfast mean one fewer potential blood glucose spike to worry about each day? Do you think you eat more or less throughout the day when you skip breakfast? Does skipping breakfast make it more likely that you’ll eat a lot late in the day? Leave a comment below!

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