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Does skipping breakfast affect hormone balance and weight gain?

A recent study in The Journal of Nutrition compared hormone patterns in women who skip breakfast against those who regularly eat a morning meal.

More than 66% of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese. Doctors recommend lifestyle changes to improve overall health and maintain a healthy body weight. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories per day, have a lower body mass index, and gain less weight compared to those who skip breakfast regularly. However, there is still debate surrounding the importance of eating breakfast when attempting to lose or maintain weight.

A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition examined hormone patterns in women who skip breakfast and women who regularly eat breakfast. For the study, the researchers recruited 32 women of normal weight (i.e. those with a body mass index of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2). Of these women, 18 were “breakfast eaters” and 14 were “breakfast skippers.”

After maintaining their normal morning routine (breakfast by 10 am for the breakfast eaters and no breakfast for the breakfast skippers), participants arrived at the testing center by 11:30 am. There, nurses recorded vital signs, weight, height, and body composition measurements, and pre-lunch blood samples were taken. All participants then ate a lunch comprised of a cheese quesadilla, salsa, potato chips, and a mixed fruit cup. Portion sizes were adjusted to match each participant’s estimated daily energy requirements for weight maintenance. Thirty minutes after lunch, each participant gave five post-lunch blood samples at 5, 20, 35, 50, and 110 minutes after the meal.

Researchers measured several hormones involved in appetite and glucose metabolism using the blood samples.  The hormones studied include insulin and five hormones involved in appetite and blood sugar regulation and digestion (leptin, glucagon-like peptide-1, ghrelin, peptide YY, and cholecystokinin).

Breakfast eaters had significantly higher levels of peptide YY hormone in their bloodstreams than breakfast skippers over the course of the testing period. Leptin levels were higher in breakfast skippers compared to breakfast eaters. Statistical analysis suggests that these two hormones are very important to overall hormone patterns.

The differences observed in breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers suggest that breakfast plays an important role in defining hormone patterns over the course of a day. Study results suggest that eating breakfast is linked to increases in hormones that signal hunger satiety during the middle of the day. A habit of eating breakfast is a healthy lifestyle factor, but more research is needed to understand why breakfast promotes health.

Written by Cindi A. Hoover, Ph.D.

Reference: Forester SM, Widaman AM, Krishnan S, et al. A clear difference emerges in hormone patterns following a standard midday meal in young women who regularly eat or skip breakfast. 2018. J Nutr 148:5:685-692.

Cindi Hoover PhD
Cindi Hoover PhD
Cindi has a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of Delaware and a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary. Her research focused on the genetics and molecular biology of corals. Cindi gained scientific writing experience through her many years of work in genomics and molecular biology laboratories. She is excited to contribute to Medical News Bulletin and to help others learn about cutting-edge scientific research. In her free time, Cindi enjoys hanging out with her family, swimming, hiking, and photography.


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