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The Boiling Point

The Case for a Breakfast Feast

Many of us grab coffee and a quick bite in the morning and eat more as the day goes on, with a medium-size lunch and the largest meal of the day in the evening. More research is needed, but a series of experiments in animals and some small trials in humans have pointed in the same direction, suggesting that watching the clock, and not just the calories, may play a more important role in weight control than previously acknowledged. Perhaps not surprisingly, the latest study found that those who supplemented three meals a day with snacks tended to gain weight over time, while those who ate only one or two meals a day tended to lose weight, even compared with those who just ate three meals a day. This seems to be hard-wired.” Having the largest meal in the morning appears to have advantages for weight control compared with having a large meal in the evening, she said, since the digestive process and the action of insulin, the pancreatic hormone that the body uses to process the sugars in carbohydrates and store glucose, appear to be at their peak performance early in the day. A person eating the identical meal at different times of day might deposit more fat after an evening meal than a morning meal, she said. “You take that same normal healthy individual and give them the same bolus of glucose late at night, and now the pancreas is sleeping — literally — and cannot produce enough insulin, and blood glucose will stay high up to three hours.” Doctors once called this “evening diabetes,” he said. But when the mice had access to the high-fat diet for only eight hours a day, they did not become obese or diabetic, even though they consumed the same amount of calories as the animals who ate round the clock. Women in both groups lost weight after 12 weeks, but those who ate the large meal in the morning lost two and a half times as much as those eating the large dinner. Dr. Kahleova suggested making the evening meal smaller as often as possible. “The message is very straightforward: Make breakfast your largest meal of the day, and eat dinner as your lightest meal of the day,” she said.

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