If you want to stay on top of your daily nutrition, consider making your morning meal a priority. Skipping breakfast could mean missing out on key nutrients, creating a nutrition gap for the remainder of the day, according to a study published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.
The study was completed with Ohio State College of Medicine graduate students and supported by a regional dairy association. The research team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collects health information every year on nationally representative samples of 5,000 people through interviews, laboratory tests and physical exams.
This study’s sample included 30,889 adults age 19 and older who participated in the survey from 2005 to 2016. Participants identified their foods as a meal or a snack, and reported the times they ate, which researchers used to determine whether a participant ate breakfast or skipped it. In all, 15.2% of participants—4,924 adults—reported skipping breakfast.
Researchers translated this data into nutrient estimates using the federal Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and daily dietary guidelines. They then compared those estimates with recommended nutrient intakes from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies.
According to the key recommendations they measured, people who skipped breakfast consumed fewer vitamins and minerals than those who had eaten breakfast, with the most differences found for folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D.
Further, participants who skipped breakfast had a poorer nutrient profile for the rest of the day, with higher intakes of added sugars, carbohydrates and total fat due to increased snacking.
“People who ate breakfast ate more total calories than people who didn’t eat breakfast,” noted the study’s senior author, Christopher Taylor. “But the lunch, dinner and snacks were much larger for people who skipped breakfast, and tended to be of a lower diet quality.”
While the study only reviewed a single day in each participant’s life, the analysis still showed that missing nutrients in breakfast foods—like calcium in milk, vitamin C in fruit, and fiber, vitamins and minerals in cereals—reduced nutrient intake for the rest of the day.
“What we’re seeing is that if you don’t eat the foods that are commonly consumed at breakfast, you have a tendency not to eat them the rest of the day,” explained Christopher. “So those common breakfast nutrients become a nutritional gap.”
The data suggests a morning meal may be helpful in avoiding excessive snacking, and improving overall nutrition.