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Epidemiology and population health

Day-to-day regularity in breakfast consumption is associated with weight status in a prospective cohort of women



Evidence suggests that regular eating patterns (i.e., consistent day-to-day frequency and timing of consumption) may be favorable with respect to weight status, and breakfast may be a particularly important meal for weight maintenance. We examined the relationship between regular breakfast consumption habits and weight status among women.

Materials and methods

Modified Poisson regression models examined day-to-day regularity in breakfast consumption among 46,037 women in the prospective Sister Study cohort in relation to weight status. Cross-sectional outcomes included overweight (body mass index (BMI) ≥ 25.0 kg/m2) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30.0 kg/m2); waist circumference (WC) ≥ 88 cm; and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) ≥ 0.85. Self-reported weight 5 years post-baseline was used to calculate 5 kg weight gain and incident overweight and obesity using BMI.


Compared to women who reported eating breakfast 3 to 4 days/week (irregular breakfast eaters), women who ate breakfast 7 days/week were between 11% to 17% less likely to be obese as measured by WHR (prevalence ratio (PR): 0.89; 95%CI: 0.85, 0.94), WC (PR: 0.85; 95%CI: 0.82, 0.88), and BMI (PR: 0.83; 95%CI: 0.79, 0.87) after multivariable adjustment. Women who never ate breakfast were between 11% to 22% less likely to be obese as measured by WHR (PR: 0.89; 95%CI: 0.83, 0.96), WC (PR: 0.82; 95%CI: 0.78, 0.87), and BMI (PR: 0.78; 95%CI: 0.72, 0.84) compared to irregular breakfast eaters. Prospective analyses showed a 21% and 28% lower risk of 5-year incident obesity among participants who always (relative risk (RR): 0.79; 95%CI: 0.70, 0.90) or never (RR: 0.72; 95%CI: 0.59, 0.87) ate breakfast, respectively, compared to those who ate breakfast 3 to 4 days/week. No association was observed for incident 5 kg weight gain.


Results suggest that a regular breakfast consumption habit, comprising eating breakfast every day or never, may be important for maintaining a healthy weight.

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This work is supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (T32-GM081740) to MAG and by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Z01-ES044005) to DPS. All authors contributed to the designed research, writing, and review of the manuscript. MAG conducted the analysis and DPS, the principal investigator of the Sister Study, provided access to the data. The authors appreciate the helpful comments of Drs. Katie M. O’Brien and Alexandra J. White.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Guinter.

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Guinter, M.A., Park, YM., Steck, S.E. et al. Day-to-day regularity in breakfast consumption is associated with weight status in a prospective cohort of women. Int J Obes 44, 186–194 (2020).

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