In A Nutshell
We’ve all skipped breakfast, and if we do it a lot, we’ve probably been lectured about how it’s a bad idea. But skipping breakfast is now being shown to be not nearly as bad as we’ve been told, with studies showing there’s no difference between groups who eat breakfast and those who go without. In fact, for most of human history, breakfast just hasn’t been a thing.
The Whole Bushel
Let’s face it. Getting up and on your way to work or school in the morning isn’t just difficult, it’s time-consuming. Many people have been flying in the face on convention and skipping breakfast to save time and to save some morning calories. It seems to go against everything that’s long been said—breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and skipping it will cause to you be hungrier in the afternoons and, ultimately, cause you to eat more and gain weight.
That’s not entirely true, though; science has proved it, and history backs it up.
The University of Bath decided to take some steps toward settling the great breakfast debate once and for all. They conducted a study in which two groups (split into breakfast-eaters and non-breakfast-eaters) were monitored for the effects of their choices. The long and short of it is that there were no differences found in key physiological aspects like metabolism, cholesterol, body mass, or blood pressure.
Research into why we believe in the sanctity of breakfast has turned up some questionable sources. Most of the studies previously done on the breakfast vs. no-breakfast question have been pretty small studies, and many have been reviewed with the findings that they don’t always seem to take the whole picture into consideration.
Even researchers working on the University of Bath project have suggested that the myth may have come into being because people who were more health-conscious tended to take time to eat a healthy breakfast, and therefore were healthier in other choices they made throughout the day. In other words, it had less to do with breakfast than it did with other lifestyle choices.
A look back at the history of breakfast shows that it’s a relatively, weirdly new concern. The Romans actually frowned on the idea of eating an early morning meal; for them, one meal a day (around midday) wasn’t just the healthiest way to go, but any more than that would have been gluttonous. Into the Middle Ages, life was shaped largely by the religion of eating. Since monks couldn’t eat before morning Mass, breakfast just wasn’t done.
Breakfast really didn’t come into fashion until the 17th century, and when it did happen, it really was because of the fashions of the times. Breakfast is, essentially, a fad that never let go. It became practical for the working classes to eat a meal in the morning because they couldn’t stop working to have one in the middle of the day, and it became a thing for the upper classes, too. Their reason for eating breakfast wasn’t a practical one, though; pre-hunting meals became the thing to do. These hunting parties could last for days, and the meal was something of a celebration before it kicked off.
And in 1895, Guy Beringer helped cement the popularity of breakfast not as a meal for those who were getting up early, but as a meal for those still recovering from a long night out the night before.
Breakfast as we know it today was the doing—in large part—of one man. In the late 1800s, John Harvey Kellogg invented cereal, and by the 1920s the government had jumped on the bandwagon for promoting breakfast as the most important meal of the day. It was a campaign temporarily slowed by World War II, but after the war it was the return of the morning routine as we’d come to know it.
Show Me The Proof
Smithsonian: Eating Breakfast Probably Won’t Help You Lose Weight
BBC News: Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?
Smithsonian: Why Do We Eat Cereal For Breakfast?
National Health Services: Breakfast ‘not the most important meal of the day’