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The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Importance of Breakfast

The Importance of Breakfast

A couple of times in elementary school, I woke up after eating a huge dinner the previous night, and just didn’t feel hungry. Every time this happened, my Mom set a bowl of cereal in front of me anyway and drilled the same lesson into my head: breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

The message stuck, but in the year or so I’ve been at WIS I’ve listened a lot of my classmates complain about being hungry before lunch. Everytime I hear this, my first reaction is to ask whether or not they’ve eaten breakfast. And sometimes, to my surprise, the answer is no.

10th grader Holden Davitian explains that “I’m not really that hungry in the morning so there is really no need, and when i’m in a rush it’s not something I feel is that important to be late to school for.”

This trend is not only present among the students, but among some faculty as well. French teacher Afaf Merzougui also confesses that, “When I was younger, I didn’t eat breakfast and my doctor wasn’t happy with me. So I know it’s not good not to eat, but I don’t feel the need to because I can eat later, at 10:00, and for me it feels better.”

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A fair portion of the WIS community agrees. After sending out a survey to the Upper School students and faculty, I found that 22 percent of the group sometimes eats breakfast and 3.5 percent don’t eat breakfast at all.  29 percent of those who don’t eat breakfast skip it because they are not hungry. There’s always the option of waiting until you want to eat, and having a snack then.

Davitian says that “I’ll sometimes pack a snack the night before and I’ll eat it between second and third period.” Merzougui echoes this, saying that “usually I take something for second-third period, like a fruit.”

There is some evidence which shows that eating breakfast may not be as beneficial as previously proclaimed. After reading an article from the New York Times, I found that there are a lot of good points that disprove the “most important meal of the day” notion.

According to the New York Times, the numerous studies that have been done on the importance of breakfast were not done professionally, and instead of being re-done have been restated and reused as evidence countless times.

Many of these studies, which were done to prove that eating breakfast contributes to being thinner or that not eating breakfast leads to higher cholesterol, were done under biased companies such as Kellogg’s and Quaker Oats.

Also, the studies that are done on eating breakfast are often contradictory. A 2014 study that was done with two groups, breakfast skippers that ate breakfast and breakfast eaters that skipped breakfast, showed that there was no significant weight gain or loss on both sides. The same experiment done in 1992 showed that both groups lost weight.

Lastly, many studies are done to prove that not eating breakfast leads to diseases such as coronary heart disease, but these studies merely show that not eating breakfast may be linked to it, but doesn’t actually cause the disease. There is no solid proof that not eating breakfast causes sicknesses.

New York Times journalist Aaron E. Carroll sums up the message nicely, writing that, “the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you’re hungry, eat it. But don’t feel bad if you’d rather skip it.” 

In spite of this, the vast majority of the upper school has a different opinion. 74 percent of those surveyed consistently eat breakfast. 10th grader Mimmi Lyrvall explains that “I think that you feel more energized and happy. (after eating breakfast) You have an easier time learning because you’re more focused in class.”

History and Geography teacher Don Boehm agrees, saying that “I think that you can wake up and not feel particularly hungry, but to get the energy you need to be productive in the morning you have to have breakfast.”

Of course, there is plentiful evidence in favor of eating breakfast. Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization that looks into public health and safety issues, among other things, wrote a compelling article on why breakfast is necessary.

According to Consumer Reports, breakfast eaters are more likely to have better-balanced diets, eating more milk, vegetables, and whole grains than non-eaters. Not eating breakfast can also lead to an increase in hunger hormones, making binge eating throughout the day more likely to occur.

Because of the difference in time between breakfast and dinner is eight hours on average, breakfast can make a big difference in the productivity of your metabolism. After eating breakfast, your body will have an easier time digesting food throughout the day.

Breakfast will give you the energy you need to be active. People who eat breakfast don’t gain more weight non-eaters, because even though they consume more net calories, they have more energy throughout the day and are more likely to burn those calories off.

Eating breakfast may protect your heart. Not eating breakfast can be related to weight gain and binge eating, which lead to heart disease. Breakfast may also give you a mental edge in processing and creativity. Some studies have shown that better mental functions come from stable glucose levels, which a morning meal provides.

These points echo some of the answers in the survey that breakfast eaters in the WIS community gave. 45 percent of breakfast eaters said that breakfast is important because it helps to reduce hunger throughout the day and 38 percent said that it gets your digestion running. This relates to the fact that breakfast does get your metabolism running and brings down binge eating.

Boehm and Lyrvall both claimed that eating breakfast helps them feel more energized and focused. An anonymous WIS member that took the survey wrote that, “it provides “fuel” for the brain and results in better cognitive function”. Both of these claims back up the fact that breakfast leads to higher energy levels and better mental functions.

While completing all of this research, I noticed a similar pattern coming up: the question of whether or not eating breakfast is based on personal choice. At first, I saw this at the end of the New York Times Article, in Carroll’s opinion that if a person is hungry, they should eat breakfast, but if not than there’s no need to worry about it.

This motif continued in the survey, when the upper school community was asked why they think breakfast is important. There were many answers along the lines of: “I’m neutral about it, it’s your choice”. The most specific answer following this opinion was: “There is no conclusive evidence that breakfast is beneficial or necessary for everyone. It’s individual.”

Boehm disagreed with these statements, saying that “ I don’t think it’s personal I think you just metabolically need it.” But he seems to be one of the minority who shares this view.

Merzougui explained that “I think that at one point someone decides on their own, and if it’s not good for you or you don’t feel good after eating breakfast it’s better to eat later”. Davitian agreed, stating “I think it depends on if different people, like what they like to eat and when they wake up and stuff like that.” 

Overall, the general opinion seems to be a sort of ‘If you don’t need it, don’t eat it’ rule. Although the studies from Consumer Reports state that breakfast is very important metabolically, the correlation to preventing disease and fatigue was always explained with words such as “it may” or “it’s possible”. This sounds similar to the New York Times statement that breakfast studies aren’t always conclusive.

Can we be sure that not eating breakfast doesn’t lead to disease or feeling worse throughout the day? No, we can’t. But it seems that we can’t be sure of breakfast’s benefits either.  

Is this research going to stop me from eating breakfast? Probably not. I actually do get hungry in the mornings and feel more awake after I eat. The purpose of this article wasn’t to change anyone’s mind, it was to explain the pros and cons of eating the proclaimed “most important meal of the day.”  

By Marta Maliszewska

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