Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many of us grow up believing that skipping breakfast is a dietary travesty – even if only two thirds of adults in the UK eat breakfast regularly, according to the Association of UK Dieticians (BDA), and around three-quarters of Americans.
The clue for why breakfast is supposed to be important is in its name: we’re advised to eat it to break our overnight fast.“The body uses a lot of energy stores for growth and repair through the night,” explains dietician Sarah Elder. “Eating a balanced breakfast helps to up our energy, as well as protein and calcium used throughout the night.”
But there’s widespread disagreement over whether breakfast should keep its top spot in the hierarchy of meals. As well as the rising popularity of fasting diets, there have been concerns around the sugar content of cereal and the food industry’s involvement in pro-breakfast research – and even one claim from an academic that breakfast is “dangerous”.
So what’s the reality? Is breakfast a necessary start to the day… or a marketing ploy by cereal companies?
The most researched aspect of breakfast (and breakfast-skipping) has been its links to obesity. Scientists have different theories as to why there’s a relationship between the two.
In one US study that analysed the health data of 50,000 people over seven years, researchers found that those who made breakfast the largest meal of the day were more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who ate a large lunch or dinner.