Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Dietary advice often courts controversy because what you should eat and when divides medical opinion. Eating breakfast is increasingly in the cross hairs amid the rising of popularity of intermittent fasting. How important is breakfast?
It’s long been held that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.
However, this sacred cow is being challenged in certain quarters. One of its fiercest critics is Doctor Jess Braid, qualified medical doctor, functional medicine practitioner, acupuncturist, Chinese and Western herbalist.
Doctor Braid is the co-founder of online health platform Adio, which aims to empower everyone to take back control of their wellbeing.
She said: “Eating breakfast is not an important meal, nor does it kick-start your day or help you to lose weight.”
The doc claimed this belief is mainly fuelled by “breakfast cereal companies and clever marketing”.
According to the doc, modern research shows that there is no benefit to eating breakfast.
For example, a review of 13 breakfast studies published in the BMJ suggested “the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit”.
In fact, “caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect, it concluded.
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The finding has important implications because weight gain can lead to a host of complications.
“In fact, by skipping it [breakfast], you omit the meal that is usually the highest in carbohydrates,” said Doctor Braid.
She continued: “Passing on breakfast helps you to stabilise your blood sugar, burn fat, use up excess cortisol (the stress hormone that spikes in the morning) and feel great.”
According to the doc, intermittent fasting can help weight loss, weight maintenance and reduce body fat.
She claimed other health benefits include improved insulin sensitivity and a likely reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The doc added: “Personal and professional experience with scheduled eating (fasting for 16 hours a day) has shown us that this is the easiest fasting method to maintain and we have seen a huge benefit in our blood sugar control, mood and energy levels.”
“It’s a myth that eating little and often boosts your metabolism.”
Doc Braid said frequent eating means constant production of insulin, encouraging your body to store and not break down fat.
She cited a randomised controlled trial by the International Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which showed that with two groups of people consuming the same number of calories, those that consumed their calories within a four-hour window, over eight weeks, had “a significant modification of body composition, including reductions in fat mass”.
The other side
There is no shortage of divergent opinion on breakfast. “Quite simply, eating breakfast supports good health,” said Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“Coming as it does after the day’s longest period without food, breakfast seems to influence metabolism more strongly than lunch or dinner.”
She added: “Failing to break your fast with a meal shortly after rising might strain your body, which could in theory lead to insulin resistance, and perhaps even other heart risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol problems, though this is all controversial.”
Given the variance of opinion, you should speak to your GP before making radical changes to your diet, especially if you’re on medication.
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