Skipping breakfast, according to the conventional wisdom, is a mistake for people with diabetes who want to lose weight. But according to a recent study, it may not be a mistake at all.
Almost all of us who have type 2 diabetes want to lose weight or make sure to keep off the weight we have lost. Twenty years ago, when a doctor first told me that I havd diabetes, I weighed over 300 pounds. Eight-and-a-half years ago, I brought my weight down to my goal of 156 (a BMI of 19.8), which is what I weigh today. It has never been easy.
But I didn’t eat breakfast this morning until I got hungry around 11:45 a.m. I didn’t eat until hours after I got out of bed in spite of the conventional advice to eat within an hour after waking up. When I did a Google search just now of "eat breakfast within 1 hour," I got hundreds, perhaps thousands, of websites telling me that’s what I should do.
For example, "The ideal time for breakfast is within an hour of waking," says livestrong.com. "You are much more likely to overeat later in the day if you don’t have something within the first hours of daily activity."
I used to believe this bit of conventional wisdom (just as I used to believe other myths, like the one that a high-fat diet is dangerous to my health). I even wrote here eight years ago about a study that seemed to show that we can lose weight by eating breakfast.
"Do I contradict myself?," as Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass, "Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
Actually, the study of nutrition, like Whitman, contradicts itself. The difference is that "Previous studies have mostly demonstrated correlation, but not necessarily causation," says the lead author of the new study, Emily Dhurandhar, assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Health Behavior. "In contrast, we used a large, randomized controlled trial to examine whether or not breakfast recommendations have a causative effect on weight loss, with weight change as our primary outcome."
The team randomly assigned to one of three groups the 283 dieters who wanted to lose weight and who completed the study: either skip breakfast, always eat it, or both. The study found that dieters who skipped breakfast lost just as much weight as dieters who ate breakfast regularly. Dr. Dhurandhar’s team followed the groups for 16 weeks and recorded their weight to show changes over the study period. They reported their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in an article titled, "The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial."
Dr. Dhurandhar didn’t set out to prove that skipping breakfast doesn’t hinder our weight loss efforts. She told Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times that she enjoys breakfast. But she added that she will stop nagging her husband to eat his.
David Mendosa is a journalist who learned in 1994 that he has type 2 diabetes, which he now writes about exclusively. He has written thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, current A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 keep his diabetes in remission without any drugs. He can be found on Twitter @davidmendosa and on Facebook at David Mendosa.