We've been told for decades that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for those watching their weight. Picture: File

We've been told for decades that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for those watching their weight.

Now scientists have cast doubt on previous research suggesting that it revs up the metabolism and can help dieters stop overeating later on.

They also challenged suggestions that skipping breakfast can disrupt the body’s internal clock and lead to weight gain.

They said eating breakfast regularly could have other important effects such as improved concentration and attentiveness levels in children.

But they concluded it did not appear to help people lose weight and should not be recommended for this.

Experts from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, examined 13 studies related to breakfast and weight in high-income countries including the UK. The pooled results showed a very small difference in weight between those who ate breakfast and those who did not, with those who skipped it on average 1lb (0.4kg) lighter.

Those who ate breakfast also consumed an average of 260 more calories a day. The results suggested those who skipped the meal did not compensate by eating more later in the day.

The researchers also found no significant difference in metabolic rates between breakfast eaters and skippers.

The authors noted that the overall quality of the studies was low, saying more research is needed. Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: ‘This study suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit.

‘Caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect.

‘Further high-quality randomised controlled trials are needed to substantiate whether those individuals seeking to lose weight should skip or consume breakfast and the role of breakfast eating in an overall weight management approach.

‘While breakfast has been advocated as the most important meal of the day in the media since 1917, there is a paucity of evidence to support breakfast consumption as a strategy to achieve weight loss, including in adults with overweight or obesity.’

Daily Mail