Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

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Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day, but is skipping this morning meal really detrimental to health? Newer research suggests this may not be as bad as many of us believe. In this Honest Nutrition feature, we take an in-depth look at breakfast and whether skipping it is really harmful.

Written by Lindsey DeSoto, RDN, LD on April 30, 2022 — Fact checked by Hilary Guite, FFPH, MRCGP

This series of Special Features takes an in-depth look at the science behind some of the most debated nutrition-related topics, weighing in on the facts and debunking the myths. Daily health news, deliveredFeed your curiosity with the latest in medical science by signing up for our newsletter.

Breakfast literally means “to break the fast.” It is the first meal of the day after a stretch of not eating overnight.

Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day back in the 1960s after American nutritionist Adelle Davis suggested that to keep fit and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

Though around 15% of people in the United States regularly skip breakfast, many still believe it to be the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides the body with important nutrients, to start the day feeling energized and nourished. Many also believe that it can promote weight loss.

But is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

As with most things in nutrition, the answer is complex. While some research suggests that skipping breakfast is not harmful, other research suggests otherwise.

Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, allows for more opportunities throughout the day to give the body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally.

However, as long as a person can fit their nutrients in during other meals, breakfast may not be the most critical meal of the day.

Most of the claimed benefits of eating breakfast are primarily derived from observational studies, which cannot prove cause and effect.

For example, one 2021 systematic reviewTrusted Source of 14 observational studies found that those who eat breakfast seven times per week have a reduced risk for: heart disease, diabetes,

obesity, high blood pressure, strok, abdominal obesity, cardiovascular-related death, and elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

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