Skip breakfast, lose weight? Not so fast
July 25th, 2013
09:36 AM ET

Skip breakfast, lose weight? Not so fast

Skipping breakfast doesn’t mean you’ll consume more calories later in the day, according to a new report from Cornell University.

Researchers split 400 college-age students into two groups; they fed one group breakfast and the other no breakfast. They then tracked their eating habits throughout the day and measured the amount of calories they were consuming.

While the non-breakfast eating group reported feeling hungry by lunchtime, they didn’t consume larger lunches compared to the group who had eaten breakfast. In fact, the breakfast skippers had consumed roughly 400 fewer calories total at the end of the day.

“The problem in our culture is that we consume too many calories, and we have to look around at ways to help us consume less,” says David Levitsky, study author and professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology at Cornell.

“And we found that if you are trying to lose weight, then skipping breakfast isn’t necessarily the worst thing for you to do.”

While the study was able to accurately measure the exact caloric intake among participants, they did not measure the energy level, metabolism or cognitive function of the breakfast eaters versus non-breakfast eaters.

Also, their sample group included only young, healthy students who were tested on only three different occasions.

And with two-thirds of America overweight or obese, the benefits suggested by Cornell researchers may not necessarily translate to the bulk of people. In fact, it’s a stark contrast to results of a Harvard study published Monday in the journal Circulation.

In this study, researchers tracked 27,000 men for 16 years.

They found participants who skipped breakfast were 27% more likely to experience a heart attack or to die as the result of coronary heart disease attack. The increased risk was seen after adjusting for age and lifestyle factors – like obesity and smoking – according to the study.

Harvard’s report suggests the impact of skipping breakfast has less to do with calorie consumption and more to do with the stress it causes on your body.

“As we sleep all night we are fasting, and so if we regularly do not 'breakfast' in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia and blood pressure problems, which can then lead to heart disease,” says Leah Cahill, study author and research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Cahill says the timing of breakfast first thing in the morning provides the protection against heart disease.

“Our bodies need to be fed food regularly in order to maintain healthy levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol, hormones such as insulin and normal blood pressure.”

Many previous studies have touted the benefits of eating breakfast.

“Eating breakfast fuels your brain, fuels your body, provides you instant energy,” says CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is also the associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

“I like to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a peasant.”

You should eat a big meal, around 300 to 500 calories, within an hour of waking up, according to experts.

“People who have breakfast tend to perform better at work and at school, and they tend to have healthier diets overall,” says Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “When you don't eat breakfast you often end up overcompensating later in the day.”

But, of course, what you’re consuming in the morning makes a difference.

Oatmeal with skim milk, a half-ounce of nuts and a cup of mixed berries is considered the ideal breakfast because it combines whole grains, protein, heart-healthy fats and antioxidants.

“If you are a lifelong breakfast skipper it can be difficult to get started,” says Moore. “But what I say is just try to start with something that's very quick and easy like an English muffin, with an egg or some peanut butter. A boiled egg, oatmeal. All of those can be done in less than a minute.”

soundoff (186 Responses)
  1. Todd

    College Students? Not really the best demographic group to get a good sample of data. In College my diet was in massive flux, changing around daily classes, and late night and early mornings. The food available is usually isn't the healthiest, hence the Freshman 15.

    Breakfast for a college student can be between 8:00 am – 4:00 pm. (as some students have classes that go from 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Stay up all night, and go to bed at 9:00 am (This isn't unheard of)

    July 25, 2013 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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      October 16, 2013 at 07:14 | Report abuse |
  2. carlos danger

    there have been 4 articles going back in forth on this in the past 2 weeks...blah blah should i eat breakfast..is one glass of wine good for me..is artificial sweetener giving me cancer.. no one has a clue, so stop writing about it. eat and drink whatever you like as long as you arent insane about it, start to gain weight or feel worse? take the damn steps or run a mile every couple of days. diets are the laziest excuse for anything, gee how can i lose weight without moving. eat food you like and do a few jumping jacks or move to Tennessee

    July 25, 2013 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ser

    so if i eat that new dunkin donuts breakfast, that has eggs, cheese and bacon inbetween 2 glazed donuts, I should lose weight???? it's breakfast

    July 25, 2013 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tony

      If that one donut sandwich is all you eat for the entire day, then yes, you will lose weight.

      July 25, 2013 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      @Tony-chances are if someone is ordering that garbage, then that is not the only thing they are eating in a day.
      NICE TRY

      July 26, 2013 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
  4. Singh

    I don't think the essential factor about morning meal, it's essential for us that how much we totally get calories in a day. Some might get much more in the evening or at the lunchtime even if they get adequate calories in the morning. We should manage everyday's total amount of calories regardless of breakfast.

    July 25, 2013 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob Vangely

      I will have to agree with total calorie being the main focus. I am a fig advocate for healthy meals and some kind of exercise although many still struggle. I have found a supplement that is very healthy and wildly successful. here is the site:


      October 31, 2013 at 17:16 | Report abuse |
  5. Maria

    The best way to loose weight is by speeding up your metabolism. Not eating breakfast slows down your metabolism. You have to eat consciously!

    July 25, 2013 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      A classic myth - repeating it doesn't make it true, nor is it supported by research.

      July 25, 2013 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
    • raj

      Good one. Found some helpful tips.

      August 27, 2013 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
  6. Dmitry

    I am like an animal, only eat when hungry! If hungry I will eat a danish for breakfast! hmm... If I put milk into coffee does it count as breakfast ?

    July 25, 2013 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Plenty of animals eat when they're not hungry, such as dogs.

      August 25, 2013 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
  7. Phil

    The inferences about skipping breakfast and "strain leading to insulin resistance" are just so ludicrous, the only reason I'm responding is because people actually read this stuff and take it seriously.

    Look: your insulin is at its highest in the morning - it's part of the system that wakes you up! If you are overweight, and you throw food at your bloodstream right off the bat, all you're doing is derailing your body from using stored energy (fat) as fuel. Your body is actually REALLY GOOD at burning fat; otherwise why would it keep it around? Do you think your biology was designed specifically to make clothes shopping a challenge? (laughing) Try acting like your ancestors for a while. Spend your day not eating, and pretend you're spending that time looking for food. Eat in the evening until you are satisfied. Take in good quality food and nutrients and spend your day drinking water. Stop believing reports that get pushed around by Big Food.

    July 26, 2013 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rollin

    I have worked for 20 years 5-7 hours a day 365 days a year with out eating breakfast and I feel fine, I don't drink coffee or drink soda I keep away from junk food and sugary snacks. So forget what science says everybody has a different.

    July 27, 2013 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Elizabeth @ HerTrainingheels.com

    I have found that the most important elemnet in maintaining my weight is making sure that i keep my insulin level stable throughout the day. Eating frequesntly and selective of the food I plan to eat throughout the day to give me the energy I will need according to my needs.


    July 29, 2013 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. johnny4fit

    This is utterly nonsense. Try following cultures that eat only 1 or 2 meals per day, and observe that they have the lowest rate of metabolic diseases. Or just look at non-epidemiological studies that inherently have control-weaknesses. This study does not conclude what the author of this article has biased toward. This is low-quality reporting, if you can even call it that. Shame on CNN for allowing this type of one-sided opinion reporting.

    July 31, 2013 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Apple

    A boiled egg in less than a minute? Give me a break. Let's not get silly just trying to make a point. Oatmeal can't be done in less than a minute, either...no matter how "instant" it is. Boiling the water takes at least that much time.

    July 31, 2013 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 22, 2013 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. kjthompson29

    Very interesting article... I have found this to be true as I have become more health conscious about how I treat my body. I haven't always been a breakfast eater but as of recent I find when I do, my days are more productive. I have also come into the knowledge about sugar intake and how it really is the culprit for weight gain. Keeping my sugar calories under 100 grams a day has allowed me to personally drop 13 pounds in two weeks. Jorge Cruise has written in great detail about this in his book the 100, and has even created a menu for eating a whole month, while watching your sugar calories. It truly is a great read and leads to weight loss.

    August 25, 2013 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Kallis482

    Breakfast is the first meal of the day. It gives energy, improve mood, and prevent from many disease like heart attack, cancer and diabetes. Its wrong thinking that by skip the breakfast you will lose your weight. Add fresh fruits, salads, vegetables, yogurt and juice in your break fast because these are high in vitamins and good for health. Exerciser regularly and go walking least 30 to 45 minutes in a day. It improve mood, burns fat, make string bones and muscles and improve your physical fitness.

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    September 4, 2013 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. keithlacon

    Breakfast is must,one should have breakfast like a king,it keeps us fit all day it is our first meal.


    September 14, 2013 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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  23. jeffreyjames2013

    This is a common misconception. In reality, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day!

    October 9, 2013 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Chad

    Skipping an AM meal is a bad idea. This is the most important meal of the day. You have been slleping for 8+ hours and you had supper 4+ hours before you went to bed. So you havent feed your body in 12+ hours. This is going to cause your body to store fat and start burning muscle. You need to eat a healthy AM meal if you cant then you need to look into a protein shake. For more info on supplements and protein see http://www.rfsupplements.com

    October 15, 2013 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Bob Watson

    I alway knew that people that are skipping breakfast are making a very unhealthy choice. If you wake up after hours of not eating and then still don't eat for 4 or 5 hours and just have coffee that means you'll binge after you sugar levels plummet. Then the sugar will have a bigger spike and a drop and then you'll be catching up all they. The way to speed your metabolism is to eat small portions to speed up your metabolism. Your metabolism is responsible for burning more calories than exercise. For more great tips on weight loss visit: http://www.FatLossEnigma.net

    October 19, 2013 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. surbhi

    Good stuff..those tips really work out..looking forward to learn more from you..keep posting.

    October 21, 2013 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Diana Harris

    In this day and age so much human obesity, I do believe that skipping breakfast is a viable option for many people for 2 reasons… 1) When sleeping during the night your body is fasting. if you skip your morning breakfast meal and mid-morning snack and continue the fasting period until lunchtime, the cortisol levels have dropped again, and fat-burning continues. 2) Hunger control is also a very important factor for weight control. For many of us, once we start eating we experience post-breakfast rebound hunger thus feeling the need to also eat a mid-morning snack. When on a reduced-calorie plan eating meals before lunch uses up the allotted calories early in the day causing a shortage of allotted calories for evening, thus feeling deprived and more likely to cheat. By skipping breakfast, the hunger cycle doesn't kick in until later in the day and then we can consume more calories during the relaxing evening time when we can enjoy it more with less chance of going over the daily calorie limit. Plus it is definitely "not fun" to go to bed hungry. For many people having a structured eating plan in an 8-10 hour window is far more satisfying and practical while letting the body actually burn the fat during the 14-16 hour sleeping and fasting window. http://BestFatLossSecret.net

    October 31, 2013 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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  29. robort

    nice article. you have to take care of your day to day diet chart to lose your excess fat. for that you can skip up your breakfast which will defiantly going to show result.

    November 28, 2013 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Kara

    who is the author of this?

    December 3, 2013 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Nathan

    Warning Americans to not skip any meals is hilarious. The thinnest and fittest I've ever been (I'm 39 now) was in High School and College, when I'd rush out the door to class without any breakfast, and often even skipping lunch, and then eating to my heart's content at night. I have since gone back to that routing, albeit healthier food choices and less alcohol, and have been able to lost the 20 or so lbs I've gained in adulthood.
    But good luck with convincing Americans to eat more, and more often!

    December 31, 2013 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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