Eat Breakfast to Lose Weight and Improve Blood Sugar

Donna Sundblad's picture

For years we've heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and now a new study shows skipping this meal can temporarily induce insulin resistance.

Many people trying to lose weight think skipping breakfast will help cut calories and drop those unwanted pounds. This strategy often backfires because by the time lunch is served they often eat more than they normally would. According to a new study the repercussions of skipping breakfast go deeper than just the risk of overeating.

This randomized, cross-over trial investigated metabolic responses in relation to skipping breakfast in overweight and obese women. The findings showed skipping breakfast may temporarily induce insulin resistance in overweight women.

Normally, food is absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of sugars like glucose. This increase in sugar signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin attaches to cells and removes the sugar from the bloodstream and uses it for energy. Insulin resistance is a condition where the body's cells don't respond properly to normal amounts of insulin. To compensate, the pancreas releases more insulin. This can lead to serious health issues including diabetes.

"Our study found that acute insulin resistance developed after only one day of skipping breakfast." -- study's lead author, Elizabeth Thomas, MD, an endocrinology fellow at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

The preliminary findings of this study were presented at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The study included 9 women who were overweight or obese with an average age of 29. None of them were diabetic. The participants came in for testing one day, and then a month later were tested again. On the first test day participants ate breakfast and then lunch 4 hours later. Blood samples were taken every 30 minutes for 3 hours following lunch. For the second day, participants skipped breakfast, and then blood samples were taken at intervals that mirrored the first test.

According to the report, "the women's insulin and glucose levels after lunch were significantly higher on the day they skipped breakfast than on the day when participants ate breakfast. The higher levels demonstrated acute insulin resistance because of skipping breakfast."

These results have a potential impact on the large number of people who skip breakfast every day. In a 2011 NPD study one out of 10 people skip breakfast. That adds up to 31 million Americans. While not eating breakfast can be bad for you, research has also shown eating breakfast is good for both your brain and your body. For those who think it is a way to lose weight, a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed breakfast skippers were 4.5 times more likely to be obese. On the other end of the spectrum, a study presented at the 2003 American Heart Association's annual conference showed breakfast eaters are less likely to be obese and more likely to have good blood sugar levels.

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