Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why 'Never Skip Breakfast' Is Just Another Diet Myth

How US Dietary Guidelines Got It Wrong on 'Most Important Meal of the Day'

The widely accepted "fact" that skipping breakfast may cause people to pack on pounds turns out to be just another myth promoted by the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This is the same panel of people paid off by the food industry alleged experts that pushes sugar-filled low-fat chocolate milk on school children and has for years warned Americans to avoid egg yolks because they contain cholesterol.* 
Don't like breakfast? Don't feel bad.
It's okay to eat your first meal
later in the day.

Instead of using randomized controlled trials, the USDA relies heavily on observational studies in which participants unreliably self report their behavior and it can appear one thing causes another because the two are associated.

In the case of the breakfast hypothesis, for instance, other associations that could explain weight gain for breakfast skippers could be less sleep, higher stress levels or other confounding factors.

A Stanford University Departments of Medicine, Health Research and Policy abstract cited an alarming statistic about health research published in highly respected journals: "Of 52 major claims made by observational studies, none was validated when tested in RCTs."

Which is pretty bad because even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Keep in mind, randomized controlled trials -- or RCTs -- are considered the gold standard of science and are far more rigorous and reliable than the observational studies on which so much dubious dietary policy is based.

The good news is at least one rogue nutritionist is refuting the USDA guidance on eating breakfast. In his ObesityWeek presentation this month -- "Myths, truths, skepticism and curiosity on null findings: striking a balance" -- Dr. David B. Allison of the University of Alabama presented data from six RCTs that yielded no evidence people who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight.

Ironically, the opposite was true: breakfast skippers were more successful at losing weight in some cases. (See Slide 11 of Dr. Allison's presentation.)

As my previous blog post on the link between herd theory and lack of medical doctors who recommend low-carb high-fat diets suggests, the more a myth is repeated by respected opinion leaders, the more likely people are to believe it -- regardless of the scientific data or dearth thereof.

With more evidence accumulating that intermittent fasting combined with a low-carb high-fat diet could be metabolically advantageous, people who prefer to skip breakfast should feel free to experiment with what works best for their body and stop feeling guilty for postponing their first meal until later in the day.

*(Concerning the USDA flip flop on egg yolks, what the dietary guidelines panel failed to consider is the liver will produce cholesterol to compensate for the amount one does not get from food. Few people consume more dietary cholesterol from food than their body needs to function.)

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