Latest Study on "Breakfast Skipping" Finds: Whether Skipping Breakfast Increases Insulin, Hunger and Blood Lipids Depends on One's Breakfast Habits

Alright, THIS may not be the best way to "break the fast" aka have breakfast.
As a SuppVersity reader, you know that the general assumption that skipping breakfast ruins your metabolism and will make you fat is bullocks (click here if you're a newbie). As a SuppVersity reader, you will yet also know that some studies still appear to suggest skipping breakfast promotes obesity and the development of the dreaded "metabolic syndrome" (learn more).

Thanks to Elizabeth A. Thomas, Janine Higgins, Daniel H. Bessesen, Bryan McNair, and Marc-Andre Cornier from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Denver Health Medical Center we do now also know why the hitherto published studies yielded highly ambiguous results.
Learn more about fasting and eating/skipping breakfast at the SuppVersity

Breakfast and Circadian Rhythm

Does Meal Timing Matter?

Breakfast & Glucose Metab.

Breaking the Fast, Cardio & the Brain

Does the Break- Fast-Myth Break?

Breakfast? (Un?) Biased Review
The answer is simple and should actually not surprise you if you've read all the article from the SuppVersity Circadian Rhythm Series (read them): The negative metabolic effects of breakfast skipping are a mere results of breaking your bodies (ingrained) rules.
Figure 1: Overview of the study day. Study procedures are shown by time (min). IC, indirect calorimetry; VAS, visual analog scales for appetite ratings; Labs, glucose, insulin, free fatty acids, triglycerides, GLP-1, PYY, ghrelin (Thomas. 2015).
In their unique randomized, cross-over trial, the scientists investigate the metabolic and appetitive responses to skipping breakfast and did - first the first time ever - distinguish between overweight women who were habitual breakfast Eaters and those who were breakfast Skippers. More specifically, the scientists recruited nine Eaters and nine Skippers who were studied on two separate days during which subjects ate breakfast (B) or had no breakfast (NB), followed by a standard lunch meal 4 h later. Blood sampling for hormones and metabolites was performed after lunch, and appetite was rated throughout the day.
Figure 2: Hunger, satiety, plasma glucose, and insulin in the Eaters and Skippers in the two conditions (Thomas. 2015).
As the data in Figure 2 indicates, the scientists observed significant interactions between day and habitual breakfast pattern were seen for the area under the curve (AUC) for insulin and free fatty acids (FFA | not shown), as well as hunger.

More specifically, both, the insulin (P < 0.020) and FFA (P < 0.023) AUC, were higher on the NB day for Eaters but similar on both days for Skippers. In addition, Thomas et al. observed that eaters had higher pre-lunch hunger AUC on the NB day (P < 0.015) as well as lower pre-lunch satiety AUC under both conditions (P < 0.019). Since the Skippers, i.e. those participants who were used to skip breakfast did not experience the opposite effect, i.e. a decreased hunger AUC on the breakfast day, the results of the study clearly indicate that the appetite increasing / decreasing effects of skipping/having breakfast depends primarily on what your circadian rhythm dictates... and the latter is determined solely by your breakfast habits.
Breakfast!? An (Un-)Biased (?) Look at the Contemporary Scientific Evidence For and Against the Benefits of Having Breakfast and The Negative Effects of Skipping Meals | read more.
Bottom line: If you have been eating breakfast forever, you may actually run the risk of being hungrier at lunch. If you haven't been eating breakfast for the past years, though, the opposite is not the case, i.e. starting to have breakfast will not make you feel more satiated at lunch. This does also imply that changing your habits, i.e. stopping to have breakfast or starting to have breakfast is likely to have a negative effect on your metabolism and - in the longer term - body weight and health.

Practically speaking, it does appear to be best to stick to what works for you. If you are a breakfast skipper, skip it. If you are a breakfast eater, like myself, enjoy it; and please: Stop thinking dogmatically! There is no definitive "right" and "wrong" in nutrition sciences | Comment on Facebook!
  • Thomas, E. A., Higgins, J., Bessesen, D. H., McNair, B. and Cornier, M.-A. (2015), Usual breakfast eating habits affect response to breakfast skipping in overweight women. Obesity. doi: 10.1002/oby.21049
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