According to a new study conducted by researchers at the Nutrition Obesity Research Center, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the consumption of breakfast was found to have no effect on people's ability to lose weight. Researchers tracked the weight loss progress of 300 people over the course of 16 weeks. The participants were divided into three groups -- one group was told to eat breakfast, one was told to skip breakfast, and the third group (the control group) wasn't offered any breakfast-related advice. At the end of the trial, researchers found each group enjoyed the same amount of weight loss success.
"Previous studies have demonstrated correlation, but not necessarily causation," the study's lead author, Emily J. Dhurandhar, explained. "In contrast, we used a large, randomized controlled trial to examine whether or not breakfast recommendations have a causative effect on weight loss."
The new study, published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is one of several other studies questioning the long held belief that breakfast is healthy and essential to weight loss. Another recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath came to similar conclusions -- finding that the metabolic rates, cholesterol levels and blood-sugar measurements of 33 participants were unaffected by the presence or absence of a morning meal.
Defenders of breakfast have argued that the two studies were too small, too short and failed to account for what type of breakfast was being consumed. Others will say the studies are part of a larger body of evidence discounting the importance of breakfast. In other words, when it comes to breakfast, science remains divided.
U.S. News & World Reports' health blogger, Yoni Freedhoff, says the devil is in the details. "I'd say if your breakfast consists of insanely large bowlfuls of sugary cereal washed down with sugary beverages like juice -- then yes, by all means skip it," Freedhoff recently wrote.
But Freedhoff, like many other nutritionists, tell patients looking to lose weight that they may benefit from a small but protein-dense breakfast eaten within an hour of waking. But right now, it's hard to say whether that wisdom is hard science or just an anecdote.
In the end, most scientists agree: more research is needed.