Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

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A LOT of health advice is hard to swallow. But it can be made more palatable if it tastes like crispy bacon and lightly poached eggs, a buttery croissant or a steaming bowl of porridge… This is perhaps why the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has stuck to our collective subconscious like an egg to an unoiled pan.

The health claims for breakfast are innumerable. It can boost your metabolism, leave you eating more healthily for the rest of the day, plus you’ll have more energy and be less likely to put on weight, which is good news for avoiding heart disease and diabetes.

Read more: Why doing more exercise won’t help you burn more calories

“The problem is that these benefits, although logical sounding, are largely assumptions based on observational studies and had never actually been tested,” says James Betts, who studies nutrition and metabolism at the University of Bath, UK. “I was amazed when I started looking for evidence – I thought there would be a lot,” he says. What was out there, though, didn’t stand up to scrutiny. So he decided to find out for himself.

The concept of a healthy breakfast was probably first introduced at the turn of the last century by John Harvey Kellogg to promote his new breakfast cereal (see “The original ‘health food’“). Despite these dubious beginnings, a body of research has since been published to support the idea. Studies show, for instance, that both adults …

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