The BMJ study focuses on breakfast in relation to maintaining a healthy weight. However, losing weight is not the only reason to eat breakfast in the morning. There are, of course, many other reasons why people eat breakfast. For example, some people are hungry in the morning and enjoy eating breakfast. Breakfast is also associated with academic success in students, and provides energy for athletes and active people. So, the answer to the question ‘Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?’, is in fact, ‘It depends on the goals of each person’. For example, for a cyclist who has an important one-day bike race, breakfast may indeed be the most important meal of the day. It is the only meal where he or she can stock up on carbohydrate and benefit during the race. Starting the race without the breakfast would have consequences for performance. But on certain days, when an athlete’s training plan is light, it may be appropriate to train on an empty stomach.
Studies suggest that if breakfast is skipped, calorie intake can be somewhat recovered and physical activity can be reduced later in the day, but not enough to compensate for lower caloric intake at breakfast. So, it seems that people who do not eat breakfast consume fewer calories in total during the day compared to people who eat breakfast, which can promote weight loss. On the other hand, even if skipping breakfast can reduce total caloric intake, it does not guarantee weight loss either, since the body can adjust by decreasing its resting metabolism (i.e. the amount of calories burned at rest). In fact, one study found that the resting energy expenditure was lower in the morning when subjects were fasting compared to when they had eaten breakfast. Interestingly, a habit of regular consumption at breakfast, consisting of eating breakfast daily or never having breakfast, can be important for maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, a study involving 46037 women found that women who ate breakfast seven days a week as well as those who never ate breakfast had a risk of obesity 21% and 28% lower respectively compared to those who ate breakfast three or four days per week.
In short, if one’s goal is weight loss, the BMJ meta-analysis suggests that eating breakfast may not be essential. For some, adding a breakfast meal could even be detrimental to weight loss by increasing total caloric intake. On the other hand, is it possible to lose weight by eating three meals per day? Absolutely! So, it’s up to you to choose what you prefer and what suits you best!