According to Maimonides and Chinese medicine we are supposed to "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a poor man", but too often I meet patients who miss this important meal or drink coffee and a cookie and think that this will satisfy their body needs - to produce energy (Qi) that will allow them to do everything they need and want.
A fascinating study compared a diet which is rich in the morning and poor in the evening to the opposite - poor in the morning and rich in the evening. The study included 93 women who were overweight and obese (BMI = 32), aged 45.8 on average, who were randomly assigned to 2 weight loss diet meal plans (approximately 1,400 calories) over a 12-week period. 46 women were assigned to the breakfast program (BF) which included a larger breakfast, a medium lunch and a small dinner, 47 to the dinner program (D) which was structured exactly the opposite (small breakfast, medium lunch, large dinner).
Results of the study showed:
Greater weight loss and reduction in waist circumference in the Breakfast group versus Dinner (from about 87 kg to 78 kg in the breakfast group or 83.5 kg in the dinner group after 3 months!)
In both groups, a decrease in blood sugar levels was observed but in the breakfast group a more significant decrease was observed in the levels of insulin, ghrelin (hunger hormone), and insulin resistance indices.
Triglycerides levels decreased by 33.6% in the breakfast group, but increased by 14.6% in the dinner group
Satiety scores in the breakfast group were significantly higher in the dinner group.
So what does it all mean?
That Maimonides (and the Chinese ancestors were right!) - a great breakfast, which combines carbohydrates and protein is beneficial to avoid obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Beyond that, many studies suggest that meal timing has implications for weight gain, appetite and metabolism of sugars and fats. It has in fact been shown that skipping breakfast and/or overeating in the evening, led to the les fat cells breakdown and an increase in the formation of fat cells (lipogenesis), which led to weight gain.
Additional studies have shown that the composition of breakfast is also important and a breakfast that combines carbohydrates and protein (compared to lunch or dinner) leads to an increased feeling of fullness and satiety and a reduction in hunger hormone concentrations.
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Jakubowicz D et al. Obesity. 2013 Dec;21(12):2504-12. doi: 10.1002/oby.20460.