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Eating a large breakfast, while enjoying lighter lunches and dinners, may be your ticket to better health and faster weight loss, a new meta-analysis suggests. Have we been doing eating all wrong, even when we generally choose healthy foods?

Everyone has heard that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day," but do you know where this saying comes from? Probably not, unless you've been around for a while — a good while. Indeed, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is a prime example of a very successful marketing campaign. The 1944 General Foods campaign during which radio adverts would tell people that experts believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day was such a hit that it's still an integral part of the public consciousness today, 72 years on, yet few of us have any idea where the information came from. 

Calorie Consumption Should Taper Off, Not Up

The campaign wasn't wrong, new research suggests — not as such, anyway. A meta-analysis of 28 recent studies conducted by researchers from King's College in the UK suggests that it's not only what we eat that matters, but also when. The modern tendency to eat at different times every day and to consume a large dinner while opting for quick and lighter lunches and breakfasts isn't doing the digestive system any good and may be confusing our circadian rhythms, the study reveals.

This is where that 1944 marketing campaign might have done the big cereal companies a lot of good, but apparently not the rest of us. Yes, breakfast may be the most important meal of the day indeed, but we were never meant to eat highly processed cereals in the morning.

The trials and studies reviews in the meta-analysis clearly show that those people who eat nutritious and calorie-rich meals first thing in the morning, tapering down to lighter and less caloric meals for lunch and dinner, have the least chance of becoming obese.

Their blood sugar levels also fare better. Two people could be ingesting the exact same calorie count over the course of a day, but the person eating a larger meal for breakfast will "win", in health terms. 

Research Is Never Done, But You May Still Change Your Eating Habits

Visiting Lecturer in the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division Dr Gerda Pot, who was involved in the study, noted: "There seems to be some truth in the saying 'Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’, however, this warrants further investigation," adding: "Although the evidence suggests that eating more calories later in the evening is associated with obesity, we are still far from understanding whether our energy intake should be distributed equally across the day or whether breakfast should contribute the greatest proportion of energy, followed by lunch and dinner."

With constant mixed messages, this latest study may just confuse you. This latest study acknowledged the fact that the digestive system does have a sleep-wake pattern just like we do, however. It might encourage you to see that 1944 advertising campaign in a new light, especially when you also look at studies that suggest breakfasts high in protein, not cereal, are the key to maintaining a healthy weight. 

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