Will Skipping Breakfast Make You Fat?

The Washington Post reports on a nutrition study:

Researchers at a New York City hospital several years ago conducted a test of the widely accepted notion that skipping breakfast can make you fat.

For some nutritionists, this idea is an article of faith. Indeed, it is enshrined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s advice book, which recommends having breakfast every day because “not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight.”

As with many nutrition tips, though, including some offered by the Dietary Guidelines, the tidbit about skipping breakfast is based on scientific speculation, not certainty, and indeed, it may be completely unfounded, as the experiment in New York indicated.

I skip breakfast most days and it’s one of the main reasons that I weigh the same as I did when I graduated high school 30 years ago. The human body works best processing food for 16 hours, a technique known as intermittent fasting. If you stop eating at 7:00 PM and don’t eat until 11:00 AM, you won’t feel hungry and you’ll lose weight as long as the food you eat is nutritious. If you exercise on an empty stomach before eating your first meal, your body will burn fat, but it will use the food you’ve eaten recently as fuel if you eat after a meal.

The government wants you to eat breakfast because politicians receive campaign contributions from people who sell breakfast “food” such as wheat, corn (maize), and cow’s milk. If someone offered you milk from a chimp you’d probably recoil in horror, as you should, but your nutritional needs are more similar to a baby primate than a baby cow. I prefer food suitable for a primate with a huge brain that doesn’t live in a forest of fruit trees.

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