Editors' ChoiceMetabolism

“Eat breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper”?

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Science Translational Medicine  04 Mar 2020:
Vol. 12, Issue 533, eabb0796
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abb0796


Eating most of one’s calories at breakfast results in higher diet-induced thermogenesis.

Controversy exists over whether weight loss is better if breakfast is eaten or skipped. Observational studies show that eating breakfast decreases overeating later in the day and potentially increases satiety leading to weight loss. However, a recent meta-analysis showed that eating breakfast is associated with increased overall caloric intake. It is also unclear whether eating more calories at a particular time of day leads to increased energy expenditure, specifically diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). DIT is the amount of energy used for digestion and absorption of nutrients after a meal and can contribute 5 to 10% of total energy expenditure.

Richter et al. sought to answer whether eating a high- or low-calorie breakfast resulted in higher DIT compared with a high- or low-calorie dinner. Unlike previous studies, this study controlled for sleep, activity, and the amount of food consumed before the study. This single blind crossover study randomized 16 men (mean age 23 years, mean body mass index 22.5 kg/m2) to either two days of a low-calorie breakfast with a high-calorie dinner or a high-calorie breakfast with a low-calorie dinner. Two weeks later, the low-calorie breakfast/high-calorie dinner group received a high-calorie breakfast/low-calorie dinner and vice versa.

Results showed that DIT was 2.5 times higher after breakfast compared with dinner. However, DIT was much lower after any low-calorie meal compared with high-calorie meals. Glucose levels were higher after high- and low-calorie dinner compared with high- and low-calorie breakfast, respectively. Feeling of hunger and cravings for sweet foods were also increased after a low-calorie breakfast compared with a high-calorie breakfast.

This study demonstrates that a higher-calorie breakfast is beneficial for increased energy expenditure and suggests that dietary interventions that include breakfast may increase weight loss. Although longer studies that include women and people who are overweight/obese are needed to assess whether including a higher-calorie breakfast will truly result in weight loss, the lower glucose excursion seen after breakfast suggests that including breakfast could be beneficial for people with prediabetes and diabetes.

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