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Is Skipping Breakfast Bad? A New Study Makes the Case for Rising and Dining

The healthiest way to start a day, a new study suggests, is with a balanced meal.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day after all. According to a new study, breakfast provides key nutrients that may not be as common in other meals. When you skip eating in the morning, you’re unlikely to make up those vitamins and minerals later in the day. And overall, people who skip breakfast are more likely to follow an unhealthy diet later in the day.

Adults who skip breakfast eat fewer vitamins and minerals in a day than those who chow down in the a.m. Skipping breakfast is particularly highly linked to a nutritional gap in folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and D, according to the study, which included more than 30,000 adults in the U.S. who recalled what they ate during a 24-hour period. The research was supported by a regional dairy association.

Breakfast often provides vitamin C through fruit, calcium through milk, and vitamins, minerals, and fiber through fortified cereals. “Those common breakfast nutrients become a nutritional gap,” said Christopher Taylor, professor of medical dietetics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. The nutrients breakfast-skippers miss out on providing a range of functions for the body, such as keeping bones strong and making healthy red blood cells, to name a few.

Adults who skipped breakfast also followed a lower-quality diet for the rest of the day. They were more likely to eat added sugars, carbs and total fat. Part of the reason why is that they snacked more.

“Snacking is basically contributing a meal’s worth of calorie intakes for people who skipped breakfast,” Taylor said. “People who ate breakfast ate more total calories than people who didn’t eat breakfast, but the lunch, dinner and snacks were much larger for people who skipped breakfast, and tended to be of a lower diet quality.”

In the study, about 15 percent of adults reported skipping breakfast. However, other studies have found that 25 percent of adults usually don’t eat a morning meal. Foregoing breakfast is often part of the intermittent fasting diet, in which people cycle between periods of eating and fasting, which has been shown to increase weight loss and enhance metabolic health.

Other studies have found that people who eat breakfast are generally healthier, but that may be because they’re more likely to eat well and exercise. However, it’s possible that there’s something special about breakfast. It doesn’t kick start metabolism, but it also doesn’t lead to weight gain. Some studies show it may help protect heart health.

All in all, it’s unclear whether there are particular benefits to eating in the morning. So before you start slamming down pancakes and waffles, remember that it’s probably not just eating breakfast that matters, but eating a breakfast rich in vitamins and nutrients.