Big Breakfast Key to Lower Weight, Study Finds

The study found that no matter their eating pattern, participants tended to add weight gradually until age 60, then lose it gradually. But those who had most of their calories earlier in the day gained less and lost weight more rapidly after age 60.

A new study of eating patterns has uncovered 4 factors tied to lower body mass index (BMI). The most important one? Having a big breakfast.

Researchers at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health and the Czech Republic said their study of 50,000 people revealed how much how weight gain is affected by when people eat, and the timing of their biggest meal. The researchers reviewed records from participants in the Adventist Health Study-2. The study appears in the Journal of Nutrition.

Four things help lower BMI: eating only 1 or 2 meals a day, fasting overnight for up to 18 hours, eating breakfast instead of skipping it, and making breakfast or lunch the largest meal of the day.

Making breakfast the main meal did more to lower BMI than saving the calories for lunch, however.

Most people cannot survive on 1 meal a day, so lead study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, offers this advice: eat both breakfast and lunch, but skip supper and avoid snacks. Make breakfast the main meal of the day and don’t eat anything overnight. Kahleova is now director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and was a postdoctoral fellow and diabetes consulting physician when the study was conducted.

Co-author Gary Fraser, MBChB, PhD, a professor at LLU Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and director of AHS-2, said no matter what the meal pattern, most people in the study gained weight slowly each year until age 60, and then lost weight slowly each year after that.

“Before age 60 years, those eating calories earlier in the day had less weight gain,” he said in a statement, noting that after age 60, the same behavior caused greater than average weight loss. Over time, the pattern of consuming most calories early in the day “would be very important,” he said.

Reference

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Kahleova H, Lloren JI, Mashchak A, Hill M, Fraser GE. Meal frequency and timing are associated with changes in body mass index in Adventist Health Study 2 {published online July 12, 2017]. J Nutr. 2017. doi: 10.3945/​jn.116.244749