Cancel your weekend brunch plans, because science says breakfast is not actually the most important meal of the day. That aphorism, much like trying to market Reese’s Puffs breakfast cereal as part of a balanced diet, is a real red-blooded American scam. It’s a lie.
The BMJ, a peer-reviewed medical journal, published a review of 13 controlled trials this week that determined breakfast “might not be a good strategy for weight loss,” and could actually have the adverse effect on adults, promoting more calorie consumption—the total and complete opposite of the breakfast jump starts your metabolism argument we’ve heard in commercials for years now. In fact, the BMJ found no metabolic difference in those consumed breakfast daily and those who didn’t.
So where did the breakfast is the most important meal of the day logic come from? The answer is simple: studies funded by big cereal, and it’s been that way for at least a century. A 2003 study that determined skipping breakfast is “not an effective way to manage weight” and that “eating cereal (ready-to-eat or cooked cereal) or quick breads for breakfast is associated with significantly lower body mass index compared to skipping breakfast or eating meats and/or eggs for breakfast” was financed by Kellogg’s. (In retrospect, the inclusion of “eating meats and/or eggs” and language like “ready-to-eat” should’ve been the first clue something’s fishy.)
A similar review in 2014 argued that skipping breakfast actually does contribute to weight loss, but also elevated levels of cholesterol, was funded by Quaker Oats. As Marion Nestle, a nutrition researcher, told Vox, “Many—if not most—studies demonstrating that breakfast eaters are healthier and manage weight better than non-breakfast eaters were sponsored by Kellogg or other breakfast cereal companies whose businesses depend on people believing that breakfast means ready-to-eat cereal.”
As a non-breakfast eater, I feel vindicated—ingesting as many carbohydrates as are typically pictured in a “balanced breakfast” leaves me feeling slow and sluggish. No one needs to eat that much brown right out of the gate. I prefer savory to sweet anyway, and am much too lazy to make eggs at 6 a.m. on a weekday before work. It just ain’t happening. Name a breakfast food anywhere as delicious, like, sushi or marinated cassava. I’ll wait.
But if you’re a breakfast loyalist (uh, sorry?) note that these studies do leave room for ambiguity. If you’re eating a bunch of pre-packaged General Mills products to kickstart your day, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors. Yogurt’s always a viable option and, as a 2009 Cambridge University review concluded, “undernourished kids perform better at cognitive tests when enrolled in a breakfast program.” So there’s some benefit to breakfast, just not the breakfast agenda.
Skip it, don’t skip, do whatever you want—just don’t believe breakfast’s the most important meal of your day. That’s lunch.*
*This isn’t verifiable. I just love lunch.