Breakfast, the most important meal of the day?

Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day. But is skipping that morning meal really bad for your health? New research suggests it may not be as bad as many of us think. In this feature, we take an in-depth look at breakfast and wonder if skipping it is really a bad thing.

Iftar literally means “breakfast”. This is the first meal of the day after a period of inactivity throughout the night. Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day in the 1960s, after American dietitian Adele Davis suggested that to stay fit and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Although about 15% of people regularly skip breakfast, many still think it is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides the body with important nutrients to start the day feeling rejuvenated and nourished. Many also believe that it can help with 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 isn’t dangerous, other research suggests the opposite. Eating meals and snacks regularly, including breakfast, provides 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 absorb nutrients through other meals, breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day.

This is what science says.

Evidence to support breakfast

Most of the purported benefits of breakfast come primarily from observational studies, which cannot prove a causal relationship. For example, a 2021 systematic review of 14 observational studies found that people who eat breakfast seven times a week are less likely to suffer from:

heart disease
high pressure
brain attack
Abdominal obesity
cardiovascular death
High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Again, this particular set of studies can only suggest that people who eat breakfast are at greater risk of developing the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases mentioned above. He can’t prove that breakfast is the cause.

However, analysis of data from more than 30,000 North Americans shows that people who skip breakfast may be missing out on important nutrients. The most common nutrients that people who skip breakfast are lacking are:

Folic acid
Vitamin A
Vitamins B1, B2, B3
Vitamin C
Vitamin D.

What’s more, a randomized controlled trial published in 2017, involving 18 participants with type 2 diabetes, and 18 healthy participants, found that skipping breakfast disrupted circadian rhythms in both groups. Those who skipped breakfast experienced a significant rise in blood sugar after eating. So the study authors suggested that eating breakfast is vital to keeping our internal clocks on time.

Does skipping breakfast cause weight gain?

Although many people report increased feelings of fullness after starting their day with breakfast, studies show that people who skip or consume breakfast end up with nearly identical total daily calorie intakes. Another 4-month randomized controlled trial tested the effectiveness of recommending eating or skipping breakfast on weight loss in 309 overweight or obese adults trying to lose weight in a free-living environment. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that eating breakfast had no significant effect on weight loss compared to not eating breakfast.

According to a 2019 analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials published in The BMJ, adding breakfast may not be a good weight loss strategy. The researchers added that caution should be exercised when recommending breakfast for weight loss, as it may have the opposite effect. However, it is important to note that this study has its limitations. The types of foods eaten were not included, and the studies were not long-term. Additionally, the researchers noted the need for additional studies to determine the long-term effects of skipping breakfast.

Interestingly, another study found that skipping breakfast can actually reduce your total daily caloric intake by 252 calories. The researchers note, however, that skipping a meal reduces the overall quality of the diet. Currently, there does not appear to be strong evidence linking breakfast to weight gain.

Are people who eat breakfast healthier?

According to a 2018 observational study, people who eat breakfast more often pay more attention to their overall nutrient intake, engage in regular physical activity, and adequately control stress. Conversely, those who skip breakfast tend to adopt unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking and drinking alcohol frequently. They also tend to eat a diet that is higher in fat, cholesterol, and calories than people who usually eat breakfast.

These findings suggest that lifestyle habits may contribute to the overall health of people who eat breakfast, not the fact that they eat breakfast.

Should we have breakfast?

Because breakfast gives us the opportunity to fuel our bodies with nutrients, it is an important meal. However, according to recent studies, it may not be the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast and listening for your hunger cues is very important if you wake up hungry in the morning. However, if you’re busy and skip breakfast one day, there’s no need to feel guilty.

If you are in the habit of skipping breakfast, it is important to make sure that you increase your intake of nutrients at other meals. Certain groups of people, such as fitness professionals or athletes who train early in the morning, may feel better after eating breakfast.

What should you eat for breakfast?

If you love breakfast, start your day with nutritious foods.

Here are some healthy breakfast foods:

Greek Yogurt
Whole grain toast
chia seeds
white cheese
Find what works best for you

Recent nutrition research continues to show that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to food. What is important to achieving optimal health is adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some ways to improve your health:

Do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week
Engaging in strength training activities for all major muscle groups two or more days per week
Maintain a healthy weight
Limit added sugars, saturated fats, and processed foods
Eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients
Listen to your body and your hunger
drink a lot of water
Avoid tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption
Get at least 7 hours of sleep every 24 hours (Trusted Source).


Although research suggests that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, it is important nonetheless. It keeps you active throughout the day and provides you with the essential nutrients your body needs. If you choose not to eat breakfast, there is no need to feel guilty, and there is not a lot of evidence that it can negatively affect your health.

What matters is eating the way that works for you while leading a healthy lifestyle and making sure your nutritional needs are met at your other meals.
If you’re struggling to meet your nutritional needs, consider seeing a dietitian who can help answer all of your questions.


Associations between breakfast habits, health-promoting lifestyle, and suboptimal health status in southern China: a population-based cross-sectional study.

The effect of breakfast on weight and energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Risks of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases | August 22, 2017
Effects of breakfast on clock gene expression and postprandial glycemia in healthy individuals and individuals with diabetes: a randomized clinical trial.

Skipping breakfast is linked to nutrient gaps and poor diet quality among US adults

* Presse Santé strives to impart medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In no way can the information provided replace medical advice.

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