Original Article | Published:

Interventions and public health nutrition

A cross-over experiment to investigate possible mechanisms for lower BMIs in people who habitually eat breakfast

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition volume 69, pages 632637 (2015) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Background/Objectives:

The body mass index (BMI) of breakfast eaters is frequently reported to be lower compared with that of breakfast skippers. This is not explained by differences in energy intakes, indicating there may be other mechanisms serving to drive this paradoxical association between breakfast and BMI. This study aimed to investigate the effect of eating breakfast versus morning fasting on measures predominantly of metabolism in lean and overweight participants who habitually eat or skip breakfast.

Subjects/Methods:

Participants (n=37) were recruited into four groups on the basis of BMI (lean and overweight) and breakfast habit (breakfast eater and breakfast skipper). Participants were randomly assigned to a breakfast experimental condition, breakfast eating or no breakfast, for 7 days and then completed the alternative condition. At the end of each breakfast experimental condition, measurements were made before and after a high carbohydrate breakfast of 2274±777 kJ or a rest period. Resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of food (TEF), blood glucose, insulin and leptin levels were recorded. Hunger and ‘morningness’ were assessed and pedometers worn.

Results:

Lean participants had lower fasting insulin levels (P=0.045) and higher insulin concentrations following breakfast (P=0.001). BMI and breakfast habit did not interact with the experimental breakfast condition, with the exception of hunger ratings; breakfast eaters were hungrier in the mornings compared with breakfast skippers in the no breakfast condition (P=0.001).

Conclusions:

There is little evidence from this study for a metabolic-based mechanism to explain lower BMIs in breakfast eaters.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by Kellogg’s Company who funded the project and discussed initial ideas that helped inform the design. They were not involved in data collection, analysis or interpretation. We are grateful to Leigh Gibson who allowed us to use his caffeine questionnaire and all the volunteers who participated in this study. Trial registered with the ISRCTN, trial number ISRCTN89657927 (http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN89657927/). Ethical clearance for the study was granted by the University of Roehampton Ethics Committee (Ref: LSC 11/010).

Author information

Author notes

    • J W Huber

    Current address: Centre for Health Research, University of Brighton, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9PH, UK.

    • T Smith

    Current address: Institute of Sport, Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton, Gorway Road, Walsall WS1 3BD, UK.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Life Sciences, University of Roehampton, London, UK

    • S Reeves
    • , L G Halsey
    • , M Villegas-Montes
    •  & J Elgumati
  2. Centre for Health and Wellbeing Research, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK

    • J W Huber
  3. Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, University of Hull, Hull, UK

    • T Smith

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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S Reeves.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2014.269

Author Contributions

JH, LH and SR contributed to study design; LH, JH, SR and TS contributed to study coordination; TS, LH, JH, SR, MVM and JE contributed to data collection; TS contributed to supervision of data collection; TS and JH contributed to data analyses, SR contributed to drafting of manuscript; all authors contributed to input on data and manuscript.