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Is Breakfast Overrated?

Aaron E. Carroll, MD has a problem with breakfast. Not the food, but the idea. That is, he doesn’t believe that a designated period each morning should be set aside for eating, especially when he isn’t hungry anyway. Or rather, the science doesn’t back it up.

At first, this seems to fly in the face of modern dietary convention. For years, we’ve been reassured that breakfast keeps us at a healthy weight, alert at school and work, and in overall good shape. But Carroll argues that these studies suffer from confirmation bias— that is, they supported what the researchers want to see proven in their studies. He speaks to two popular studies: one which shows an inverse correlation between skipping breakfast and obesity and another that reveals a link between a lack of breakfast and coronary heart disease. These studies are widely cited, but often times the causation/correlation line is blurred, confusing readers.

Carroll then cites several other studies that contradict common breakfast-time beliefs. One that found getting breakfast eaters to skip breakfast while having breakfast skippers eat it makes no discernible difference in weight loss efforts.

Of great importance is the fact that many studies praising breakfast are funded by manufacturers of breakfast foods. Of course, he says, Quaker oats will fund a study that suggests eating oatmeal will reduce cholesterol and weight… when certain conditions are met.

It’s not that breakfast is bad for you or a waste of time. Instead, Carroll says that we overestimate its importance; for better or for worse, its consumption is not a panacea for the ills that come as a consequence for unhealthy habits. If you’re hungry in the morning, satisfy yourself. But if not, don’t break your back trying to whip something up. The evidence that it will make that much of a difference is scant, at best.

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