Study: You May Not Need to Eat Breakfast, After All

Researchers found no neuropsychological difference between kids who ate it and kids who didn't.


Breakfast photo via

If you ran out the door this morning with only coffee in your stomach, it’s probably about the time you’re starting to feel hunger pangs—lots and lots of hunger pangs. Uncomfortable? Definitely. Annoying? Sure. Disruptive to your productivity? Maybe not, says a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from Texas and the physician-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, suggests that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, after all.

Researchers completed a series of assessments—testing things like memory, processing speed, attention, and learning capacity—on 128 school-aged children, some who ate breakfast and some who didn’t. They found no significant difference in the groups’ neuropsychological functioning, suggesting that breakfast may not make as much of an impact as your mother always told you.

Granted, the study was relatively small and focused on children, so the results may not translate perfectly to the adult population. Plus, other studies have found breakfast benefits that have nothing to do with neuropsychological functioning, such as maintaining a healthy weight and getting more well-rounded nutrition, so the study shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of breakfast eating. It’s also worth nothing that prior studies have found that eating before school does, actually, improve kids’ classroom behavior.

If anything, the new research adds to the ongoing debate between die-hard breakfast fans and morning meal haters, one that, like so many nutrition topics, volleys back and forth constantly. A New York Times article from this spring does a good job of mapping some of that debate.

Your safest bet is letting common sense rule the day. If you (and your child) are hungry in the morning, eat. If not, don’t. According to the research results, it won’t make much of a difference either way.