June 18, 2009
Skip breakfast, gain weight
Forgoing breakfast is the wrong way to go if you are trying to lose weight, says a new study
You have heard this many times before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A new study underlines this belief yet again. It says that people who are trying to lose weight may hinder their odds of success if they skip the first meal of the day. That is because it biases your brain towards craving high-calorie foods over low-calorie foods.
'When people are fasting - in this case skipping breakfast - it leads to people being hungrier and it also leads to greater activity in the areas of the brain involved in reward,'
Dr Anthony Goldstone, of Imperial College London, Britain, told The Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Washington, DC.
'In addition, we find that when people are fasting, they prefer high-calorie foods to low-calorie foods," he added.
The findings were based on brain-imaging studies performed on 20 non-obese healthy people who were shown pictures of low-calorie foods (salad, vegetables and fish) and high-calorie foods (cake, chocolate and pizza). The subjects were asked to rate how appealing the pictures were after a filling breakfast or after no breakfast at all.
Dr Goldstone noted that past studies had shown that people who skipped breakfast on a regular basis tended to be heavier, had a tendency to get more of their calories from fat, and were more likely to gain more weight over the years than those who ate breakfast regularly. The new study suggested a possible mechanism by which this might occur.
'It may be that when you miss meals, and maybe particularly breakfast, your brain reward system is biased towards these high-calorie foods over the low-calorie foods,' Dr Goldstone said, 'and this is an entirely appropriate response of the body in a defence to try to maintain calorie intake.'
'This may then be an explanation for why people who miss meals in an attempt to lose weight - something that is used by 30 to 40 per cent of people trying to lose weight - may find it hinders their weight-loss attempts. It may have an opposite effect and they could gain weight,' he said.
He said that the results supported current medical advice to eat a healthy breakfast to prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss.