Skipping Breakfast Makes High-Calorie Food More Appealing

Just how important is breakfast anyway? Virtually every health-related organization goes to great lengths to stress its importance in a variety of ways, but new research suggests yet another reason not to skip breakfast: It makes high-calorie foods much more attractive later in the day.

Neuroscience 2012

The conclusion was presented by Tony Goldstone of Imperial College London in the UK and colleagues at Neuroscience 2012 in New Orleans last week. It is a conclusion reached by comparing the MRI brain scans of people to examine their eating patterns, scanning both after breakfast and when they skipped breakfast.

"Through both the participants' MRI results and observations of how much they ate at lunch, we found ample evidence that fasting made people hungrier, and increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount people ate," said Goldstone.

In the scans taken, researchers discovered differing patterns of activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, which is an area just above the eyes and which has a major influence on judgements regarding the reward value of food.

What they determined was that activity in the orbitofrontal cortex was greater in people who skipped breakfast than it was in people who had breakfast.

How Fasting Works Against Us

Researchers concluded that the orbitofrontal cortex plays an important role in the choices we make concerning what foods to eat. They also concluded that their study, which admittedly only had 21 participants, gives greater credence to previous findings indicating that, while fasting might seem like a common sense way to lose weight, it is in fact a terrible way to do so because, in their words, it appears to "bias the brain" into looking for high-calorie foods later in the day as a means of compensating.

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