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Skipping Breakfast with Diabetes

Skipping breakfast, according to the conventional wisdom, is a mistake for people with diabetes who want to lose weight. But this piece of conventional wisdom may be a myth.

Almost all of us who have type 2 diabetes want to lose weight or make sure to keep off the weight we have lost. Twenty years ago when a doctor first told me that I have diabetes, I weighed over 300 pounds. Eight and one-half years ago I brought my weight down to my goal of 156 (a BMI of 19.8), which is what I weigh today. It has never been easy.

But I didn’t eat breakfast this morning until I got hungry around 11:45 a.m. I didn’t eat until hours after I got out of bed in spite of the conventional advice to eat within an hour after waking up. When I did a Google search just now of “eat breakfast within 1 hour,” I got hundreds or perhaps thousands of websites telling me that’s what I should do.

For example, “The ideal time for breakfast is within an hour of waking,” says  livestrong.com. “You are much more likely to over eat later in the day if you don’t have something within the first hours of daily activity.”

I used to believe this bit of conventional wisdom (just as I used to believe other myths, like the one that a high-fat diet is dangerous to my health). I even wrote here eight years ago about a study that seemed to show that we can lose weight by eating breakfast.

“Do I contradict myself?,” as Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass. “Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Actually, the study of nutrition, like Whitman, contradicts itself. The difference is that “Previous studies have mostly demonstrated correlation, but not necessarily causation,” says the lead author of the new study, Emily Dhurandhar, assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Health Behavior. “In contrast, we used a large, randomized controlled trial to examine whether or not breakfast recommendations have a causative effect on weight loss, with weight change as our primary outcome.”

The team randomly assigned the 283 dieters who wanted to lose weight and who completed the study to one of three groups: either skip breakfast, always eat it, or keep on eating or skipping. The study found that dieters who skipped breakfast lost just as much weight as dieters who ate breakfast regularly. Dr. Dhurandhar’s team followed the groups for 16 weeks and recorded their weight to show changes over the study period. They reported their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition at “The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial.”

Dr. Dhurandhar didn’t set out to prove that skipping breakfast doesn’t hinder our weight loss efforts. She told Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times that she enjoys it. But she added that she will stop nagging her husband to eat his breakfast.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Marcos Taquechel at

    I cam across a book I think you’ll like. A poor misunderstood Calorie by William Lagakos. He goes into amazing detail on all carboyhydrates and fat metabolism issues. Very interesting to anyone but specially diabetics.

    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Marcos,

      I haven’t heard of this book before, so thank you for telling me about it. I will try to get it from the library.

      Best regards,