Research published in the journals Obesity [July 2 online] and Circulation [2013; 128, 337-43] should give breakfast naysayers new facts to nosh on the next time they are running out of the door unfueled for the day.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered that eating a high-calorie breakfast and reducing intake at dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for managing obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Overweight and obese women (BMI 32.4 ± 1.8 kg/m2) with metabolic syndrome were randomized into two ∼1,400-kilocalories-per-day weight loss groups for 12 weeks. Half ate 700 kcal at breakfast, 500 kcal at lunch and 200 kcal at dinner. The second group flipped the breakfast and dinner calories (200 kcal breakfast, 500 kcal lunch, 700 kcal dinner).

Those who consumed more for breakfast showed greater weight loss (~19 pounds vs. ~8 pounds) and waist circumference reduction (about 3.3 inches vs. 1.5 inches) than those who ate a big dinner, reported the authors.

“Although fasting glucose, insulin, and ghrelin (an appetite hormone) were reduced in both groups, fasting glucose, insulin, and HOMA-IR decreased significantly to a greater extent in the [breakfast] group,” said the researchers in their abstract. “Mean triglyceride levels decreased by 33.6% in the [breakfast] group, but increased by 14.6% in the [dinner] group.”

In another experiment, a large 16-year study (involving 26,902 male health professionals aged 45-82) found that men who reported skipping breakfast had a higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who ate in the morning. Researchers discovered that the timing of meals, whether it was missing breakfast or eating a meal very late at night, may cause adverse metabolic effects that could lead to coronary heart disease. Even after accounting for modest differences in diet, physical activity, smoking and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast (or eating very late at night) and coronary heart disease persisted.

“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time,” said Leah E. Cahill, PhD, lead study author and postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“Don’t skip breakfast,” Cahill said. “Eating breakfast is associated with a decreased risk of heart attacks. Incorporating many types of healthy foods into your breakfast is an easy way to ensure your meal provides adequate energy and a healthy balance of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. For example, adding nuts and chopped fruit to a bowl of whole-grain cereal or steel-cut oatmeal in the morning is a great way to start the day.”