Study finds eating a big breakfast may significantly boost calorie burning

Skipping breakfast may be harming your weight loss attempt, according to a new study. The research joins past studies that have associated eating in the morning with lowered obesity and other metabolic benefits, finding that in addition to burning more calories, eating a big meal in the morning also has less of an impact on blood sugar and insulin compared to eating a big meal at dinner time.

Key to the benefit is a process called diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), which refers to the amount of energy (calories) the body uses when digesting food and moving nutrients. The DIT measurement isn't stable across every meal — the new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that calorie burning is significantly higher when eating breakfast compared to dinner.

Juliane Richter, M.Sc, Ph.D., the study's corresponding author, explained:

Our results show that a meal eaten for breakfast, regardless of the amount of calories it contains, creates twice as high diet-induced thermogenesis as the same meal consumed for dinner. This finding is significant for all people as it underlines the value of eating enough at breakfast.

The work involved a total of 16 male participants who spent the first round of the study eating a low-calorie breakfast and a high-calorie dinner; the second round of the study switched this, feeding them a high-calorie breakfast and a low-calorie dinner. Despite receiving identical amounts of calories throughout the study, the researchers found that eating a high-calorie meal in the morning led to a 2.5x higher DIT measurement.

As well, eating a bigger breakfast and smaller dinner was found to reduce appetite throughout the day — eating a small breakfast was found to fuel appetite, particularly for sugary items. As well, the participants' insulin and blood sugar levels were found to be lower after breakfast compared to dinner.

The findings are particularly good news for people suffering from obesity who may struggle with a high appetite and sugar cravings throughout the day. Richter explained, "We recommend that patients with obesity as well as healthy people eat a large breakfast rather than a large dinner to reduce body weight and prevent metabolic diseases."