Food

Breakfast Isn't Important

Ignore the hyped warnings from the government and the media.

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I skipped breakfast again this morning. I won't worry about it.

Yes, I've heard the advice. "It's the most important meal of the day." It balances blood sugar levels, kick-starts your metabolism, stimulates the brain, etc.

A Harvard University study said men who regularly skip breakfast have a 27 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack. Twenty-seven percent!

But I'm not worried, because I now know there's no proof that skipping breakfast causes heart attacks or any other problem.

In my latest video, nutritionist Dr. Ruth Kava points out that just about all the claims about breakfast being especially important are unproven.

Those Harvard researchers actually say it "remains unknown whether specific eating habits…influence…heart disease risk."

Strokes and heart attack news persists in part because people who skip breakfast tend to have other bad habits, like smoking.

But the breakfast bunk keeps coming.

Several years ago, the government announced that skipping breakfast may make you fat. Of course, the media jumped on that one. "Missing breakfast tricks your brain into thinking you want higher-calorie foods," says WebMD.

"Far from making you fat, breakfast actually helps activate your metabolism so you start burning fat," says StepToHealth.com.

But it's not true, shows a new analysis by the British Medical Journal.

"They looked on a number of different studies, and they did not find that eating breakfast…helped people lose weight," says Kava.

The government has backed away from its claim.

Why did researchers and the government get it so wrong?

Partly because eating habits are hard to study. You can't follow test subjects for years, continuously controlling what they eat.

So, many studies are based on what people (SET ITAL)say(END ITAL) they ate. Some people forget. Or lie.

Many of us have been suckered by studies funded by cereal makers. Five of 15 studies mentioned by the government in its breakfast push were funded by General Mills or Kellogg.

"Yeah, well, they're the ones that are interested in having their products sold," says Kava.

On its cereal boxes, Kellogg touted that study that found people who didn't eat breakfast could lose weight by starting to eat cereal or breads for breakfast instead of skipping breakfast altogether or eating meat and eggs.

"Don't get your nutrition education from cereal boxes," says Kava.

In fairness, cereal companies don't always try to spin the results. One study funded by Quaker Oats found skipping breakfast was associated with weight loss in people who were overweight. Instead of ignoring the result, Quaker Oats actively pushed the researchers to publish the data.

Even cereal boxes might be better sources of information than television, though.

Sesame Street is more reliable than most shows, but even there, Michelle Obama told Grover he was probably tired because he hadn't had a "healthy breakfast!"

While it's true that a hungry child may not do well in school, Obama tells Grover, "Everybody should have a healthy breakfast."

Not true. You need nourishment, but there's no good evidence it has to come at a specific time of day.

"Eat breakfast if you're hungry. If not, eat a little later," advises Kava.

Of course, the key to good health isn't just to do whatever you feel like doing. Our appetites can lead us astray. Smoking kills. Some tempting foods are unhealthy.

But years of consumer reporting have taught me that moderation and common sense are better guides than the hyped warnings from government and the media.

COPYRIGHT 2019 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
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  1. I eat breakfast every day, right about at noon.

    1. I don’t know the science but intermittent fasting is working for me.

      My eat window is 12pm to 8pm.

      1. Working in what way?

        1. Polishing monocles. He only feeds his orphans between 12pm and 8pm.

          1. Ok but how many days a week?

            1. Good question. He says “intermittent fasting” — does that mean every other day, once a week chosen randomly, or something else?

              Probably a trade secret.

            2. I do daily. I’m trying to add longer fasts once a week.

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  3. I think you have to challenge all these food studies, regardless of what they determine.

    Drinking wine is a case in point. Recently, we’ve heard the actual reason for the supposed health effects of wine is that people who prefer wine tend to be from higher socioeconomic communities, have better jobs and education, and are generally more in tune with their health. Therefore wine is more of a correlation than a cause.

    Okay, but what about “the French paradox” that raised the whole question of how come people who drink wine can get away with eating fatty foods and smoking? Anyone who thinks every French-speaking person is automatically sophisticated and educated has never been abroad. There are plenty of them who are hardly wealthy or educated and even more who would fit right in with the sort toothless, disaffected welfare types that our own Reverend disdains.

    1. And the toothless uneducated Frenchies tend to be socialists

    2. If you believe every study that says food “x” is bad for us, the only “healthy” option left would be starving to death.

    3. If you believe every study that says food “x” is bad for us, the only “healthy” option left would be starving to death.

  4. And when Stossel drops dead a week from now you’ll be eating those cheerios.

    1. See the comment above, you bumbling fool. Causation and correlation are very different.

      1. Meh-he’s one of the Rev’s sock puppets-ignore.

  5. SET ITAL, END ITAL!

    1. I don’t think that’s how any of this works.

  6. Good old modern science. Where you only have to get it right about a third of the time to be published.

    Statistics, and nominally p statistics, are the worst thing to happen to modern science. If you have enough data sets, you’ll get a false positive occassionally and those tend to lead to the published papers.

    1. I won’t deny there have been issues with some studies. I certainly isn’t always right. But you are overstating it. Most of the things science got “wrong” is actually the media and government incorrectly interpreting what a study said. And since nobody reads actual studies and only the description by these other actors that becomes the “popular” understanding of what science says, rather than what science “actually” says. The Harvard study cited in the beginning indicates that. They reported a statistical fact but explicitly and correctly stated that they can’t conclude that there is causation. That didn’t stop the way it was reported.

      1. *It certainly isn’t always right.

        We need a freaking edit button

        1. Both are correct.

          1. I would also say that the issues in science are themselves a symptom rather than cause of the problem. The problem is the over reliance by universities on their professors being published, particularly for tenure. This leads to researchers feeling the need to publish even the smallest thing even when there is nothing particularly useful. It also means they’ll manipulate their data (as you said with p-hacking and other forms) to get published. There needs to be a greater emphasis on process and quality rather than quantity.

            And it has allowed a ton of journals to form, many of them suspect, as it becomes profitable due to the need to publish and therefore the need to patronize even bad ones in the industry lest they go away and you lose a source to publish your material. This has effected all forms of scholarship, not just in science but everything.

    2. P-values aren’t the problem, p-hacking is.

  7. I’ve never been a big breakfast fan-don’t like cereal, eggs, or sugary stuff like pancakes much, so I usually have a smaller version of lunch (sandwhich or even a pizza slice) in the morning. Most days though I am fine with coffee and a banana

  8. Breakfast makes coffee taste even better.

  9. “Eat breakfast if you’re hungry. If not, eat a little later,” advises Kava.

    I take back everything I have said about those British doctors; whip smart lot, those.

    1. Well, that one is, in this instance. Many of the others delude themselves into thinking they can only ever be doctors as long as the public purse is paying for it.

  10. did this yesterday …

  11. I’ve got a tinfoil hat theory that this is something that’s being fed to Stossel to discredit him, and that soon there will be a piece on some lefty/MSM site that will be “LIBERTARIAN EXTREMIST KOCHPUPPET PUSHES BOGUS BREAKFAST THEORY” or something.

    I respect you deeply, Mr. Stossel, and I wish you all the best.

  12. Strokes and heart attack news persists in part because people who skip breakfast tend to have other bad habits, like smoking.

    What if, like me, your regular breakfast is a cup of coffee and a cigarette?

  13. Every health and diet study is funded by someone’s agenda, but the guppies believe whatever their thought leader approves.

    1. Stossel is my thought leader. Praise be.

  14. Just the type of “gotcha” style journalism that I don’t come to Reason for. First, as others have pointed out dietary research is known to yield conflicting results. It always has and always will. There are far too many variables and thus is too easy to manipulate. Thus you’d think that Dr. Stossel would be able to reason that by citing one or even many papers in his rant against breakfast whose results conflict with a grouping of others, he’s perpetuating the hype only in the negative. I also regularly skip breakfast and am certainly not worried about my risk of heart attack or stroke as a result. However all meals are important, and yes so is their timing for a number of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with heart disease. You’d have to be an idiot not to think so…or a contrarian and sensationalist. I enjoy a good contrarian in conversation because it makes me think and evaluate. Sensationalism in journalism, not so much.

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