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A few months ago, I blogged about the controversy surrounding whether eating breakfast is a good strategy for people trying to lose weight. I (along with expert clinicians like Yoni Freedhoff) am in the pro-breakfast camp, but a few readers offered well-supported arguments against breakfast.
So I’ve been biding my time since then, waiting for a slam-dunk argument — and now I’ve got it! A new study in the journal Environmental Health looked at blood levels of lead in a group of 1,344 children in China. Apparently, it has been shown previously that fasting increases the rate of lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. So if you don’t eat breakfast, this daily mini-fast could cause your body to absorb more lead into the bloodstream. Sure enough, after controlling for factors like age and gender, the study found that regular breakfast-eaters (as reported by their parents) had 15% less lead in their blood than regular breakfast skippers.
In all seriousness, this is unlikely to be relevant to anyone who doesn’t have lead paint on their walls or a toy-box full of lead toys. I just thought it was interesting — and it does show that eating patterns and timing do affect how your body processes the food (and heavy metals) that pass through your gut. Overall, the research on breakfast and weight control is still pretty muddled and conflicting. I remain pro-breakfast, but I realize this study isn’t going to win anyone over!
UPDATE April 8: Perfect timing: I just noticed that Peter Janiszewski over at Obesity Panacea has a post on a new prospective study showing that breakfast-skippers aren’t just heavier in a cross-sectional analysis, but also tended to gain the most weight after a two-year follow-up. Still suffers from the same flaws as any non-randomized trial (i.e. the skippers could be the ones who are already battling weight problems), but an interesting finding nonetheless.