Is Breakfast The Most Important Meal of The Day? Dr. Leonard Sowah

environment and health Fasting and Health Nutrition and health obesity Personal health Weight loss

Most of us grew up with this adage burned into our brains. We have been advised to start the day with a good breakfast. Breakfast food companies like Kelloggs have used this in marketing messages for years. With concerns about Kelloggs involvement in some of the Food Science Research things can sometimes appear murky. When your mechanic says you need a car maintenance visit every week you have every reason to question if he has your interest or his interest at heart.

This situation has caused me some distress, because my breakfast was the first casualty once my commute exceeded my 45 minute cut-off.   I  started out by rationalizing that Kelloggs and possibly places like IHOP were just pulling a fast one on us all. This story has been very effective for me even though I had no solid evidence to back it. It has however served me well  because for the past few years my commute had stayed above 45 mins.

The past few years there have been challenges to the pre-eminence of breakfast theory. I do belief though that those with these alternate theories on eating do not do justice to themselves if they discredit the prior theory without any qualification. One cannot compare the alternate eating approaches to the breakfast within an hour of waking theory on account of the differences in the problems these newer theories were designed to solve.

My reasoning though is that these alternate meal cycles which are now becoming popular in a world in which close to 50% of Americans are obese cannot be compared fairly with ones studied in a totally different population with a very different body composition and nutritional needs. If I am allowed to stray into a Dickensian world this is like comparing the results of a study with a bunch of Oliver Twist’s with another a collection of Joe the Fat Boys in the The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

To lose weight and keep it off one must have a sustainable meal plan

As we start hearing about studies that challenge the pre-eminence of breakfast among meals there could be a tendency of people to switch to diets such as the 16:8 meal plan which theorizes that having a longer fasting period such 16 hours between dinner and breakfast could help with energy expenditure. Others have advocated intermittent fasting such as the 5:2 meal plan where adherents limit themselves to a 500 calorie meal 2 days in the week and revert to a regular 3 meal schedule on other days.

As we consider those plans we must be very clear on what the main focus of these ‘modern’ day meal plans are, weight loss. They are designed to help obese and overweight individuals lose weight not provide nutrition and ensure optimum performance by all.

To make sure that we do not confuse these issues and make decisions that could potentially derail our efforts to remain healthy and well nourished; we can follow some simple rules;

  1. Fasting meal plans are not for everyone, pregnant women, actively growing adolescents and children, diabetics and other people with conditions that require they eat regularly must avoid such diets, if you are interested in an alternate meal plan consider discussing this with your doctor.
  2. Fasting may help you lose weight but skipping breakfast could make it more difficult to maintain the weight lost
  3. The meal plan that you choose for weight loss must be sustainable
  4. Avoid breakfast meals with high calorie refined carbohydrates like cakes and other sweet pastries
  5. Overall, diets rich in fiber from cereals, nuts and fruits are superior to most processed foods and help people maintain good energy balance across the day.

On account of changes in the population distribution in this country as well as consistent increase in obesity, research results from 50 years back may not fully apply to our current population and physicians and researchers must continue to question the validity of some their results on application to our current populations

By Dr. Leonard Sowah a physician in Baltimore, Maryland

Feature photo: “breakfast on the farm” by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0



A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan