The “most important meal of the day” might just mean extra calories for people watching their weight. A meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss. The findings were published online in 2019 in The BMJ.
Participants who were assigned to skip breakfast saw slightly better weight changes than those who were assigned to eat breakfast. Those in the breakfast group also consumed about 260 more daily calories than breakfast-skippers.
Previous observational studies had suggested that eating breakfast was associated with weight loss, a finding not supported by this meta-analysis of clinical trials. Researchers noted that those earlier results could have been because people who eat breakfast are more likely to have overall healthy lifestyles.
It has also been theorized that the consumption of calories at breakfast could assist in weight loss due to the efficient metabolizing of calories early in the day, leading to prevention of overconsumption later in the day. The studies in the meta-analysis that examined metabolic rates found no significant difference between people who ate breakfast and those who didn’t, however.
Because of limitations in the trials reviewed, researchers advised caution in interpreting the results. But the findings do suggest that simply adding breakfast won’t be an effective weight loss strategy if it also means adding to total daily calories.