Does eating a breakfast high in sugar prime people to crave sugar throughout the day, or does it stave off hunger, reducing subsequent sugar intake in the afternoon and evening? Interestingly, the answer is neither, according to a new study published in the journal, Obesity. While researchers and clinicians have debated the value of breakfast contents for decades, these new data suggest that what we consume at breakfast has little impact on what we eat during the rest of the day.
To evaluate this issue, researchers studied 29 people who were given a breakfast with 30% added sugar over a 3-week period. Over the following 3 weeks, the same study participants – whose mean age was 33 – were given breakfast with no added sugar. Over the course of the 6-week study, researchers tracked people’s calorie and carbohydrate consumption, as well as their body mass, resting metabolic rate, satiety, and physical activity.
The researchers found that the participants consumed roughly the same amount of calories during the first 3 weeks when they had more sugar in their breakfast as they did during the last 3 weeks, when no sugar was added to their first meal of the day. The difference in their carbohydrate intake varied only by the amount that was consumed at breakfast, suggesting that eating more sugar at breakfast did not affect the amount of sugar consumed between breakfast and bedtime. Additionally, there was no differences in body mass, resting metabolic rate, satiety, or level of physical activity during the 2 phases of the study.
What do these data mean in terms of diet recommendations? Though it is promising that sugar intake at breakfast does not enhance intake throughout the day, these results still do corroborate the notion that lower sugar intake at breakfast is preferred. Given that higher sugar intake at breakfast time does not appear to improve satiation or reduce subsequent caloric or carbohydrate intake, overall sugar intake will tend to be higher when people eat more sugar at breakfast. Future research into the specific impact of different foods and nutrients on eating habits and overall health will help us improve upon our recommendations for all physician services and further customize these recommendations to specific groups of patients.