Waffles Are Great, But Research on Breakfast Is Sketchy AF

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Pump the brakes, breakfast evangelists. You sit on a throne of lies. 

After decades of preaching the importance of starting the day with a meal, researchers are finally calling their own bluff: They don't have a clue whether skipping breakfast is actually bad. 

When it comes to breakfast research, the studies are more scrambled than a plate of eggs. 

A 2013 meta-analysis of existing breakfast research, looking at the effect skipping breakfast has on obesity, revealed poor research and bias in reporting, The Atlantic reported. And, as the New York Times noted, there are very few randomized controlled trials examining breakfast and it's effect on health. The ones that do exist aren't robust enough to merit incessantly nagging breakfast skippers. 

Advertisement for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes in Ebony, 1977Source: Classic Film/flickr
Advertisement for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes in Ebony, 1977  Classic Film/flickr

A fresh serving of bias. Many of these studies are funded by the food industry. Kellogg funded one study which found breakfast cereal was correlated with being thin, while Quaker Oats, owned by Pepsi, funded one indicating that skipping breakfast increases cholesterol in overweight people. 

Children are the only group of people who science says might be worse off when skipping breakfast: A meta-analysis from 2013 found that eating breakfast has a positive effect on children and teens' academic performance. 

Not all breakfast is created equal. Grandma's homemade bowl of steel cut oatmeal and a greasy Burger King breakfast sandwich are hardly alike. 

"Research about breakfast tends to divide the world into those who skip, and those who don't," Dr. David Katz, the founding director of the Yale University Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post. "But deferring and skipping are not the same. Skipping despite hunger, and deferring for want of it, are not the same. And clearly all breakfasts are not created equal."

Whether they've been brainwashed by breakfast marketers or genuinely love sacrificing sleep for cereal, American people like their breakfast. The NDB group, a global information company, projected that total breakfasts will grow by 5% through 2019. This outpaces the expected U.S. population growth. 

Food marketers, restaurants and fast food chains are capitalizing on this breakfast gravy (and biscuit) train. Case in point: In 2015, McDonald's launched its all day breakfast menu due to high demand.

To have a fat-laden breakfast or no breakfast at all? The influx of "all day" breakfast menus at many fast food joints begs the question: Are Americans any better off if they house a bacon, egg and cheese sammie at 11 a.m. compared to just skipping breakfast entirely? 

"Most of the items offered for 'all day breakfasts' are nutritionally quite dubious, so I do not think delaying breakfast for the sake of having waffles later in the day will be a good idea," Dr. Katz said via email. 

Dr. Katz himself is Team Delayed Breakfast — he drinks coffee when he wakes and then eats his first meal of fruit and grains, or Greek yogurt, at around 11:30 a.m. or as late as 12:30 p.m.

Can a meal eaten after midday be considered breakfast, anyway? 

"Tempting to go with Shakespeare: What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any word, would smell as sweet...'" Katz said.