You may have already heard that not eating breakfast, often called the most important meal of the day, isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight. But in the rush to get out the door in the morning, many of us just don’t have the time, even though studies have shown those who eat breakfast stay slimmer and consume fewer calories during the course of a day.

Now new research has hit upon the explanation.

The work involved 20 healthy, non-obese subjects who skipped breakfast before a fMRI scan.

During the test, the subjects looked at photos of both high and low calorie foods. High calorie choices included pizza, chocolate and cake. The low calorie foods were things like veggies, salad and fish.

Using scans known as function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that help doctors look at blood flow in the brain and how it increases in response to brain activity, the researchers were able to compare how breakfast eating vs. breakfast skipping affected the reward center of the brain.

The reward center is known to be a part of the brain involved in keeping track of the pleasure and reward that comes from food, as well as igniting the motivation to eat. The taste, smell and sight of food also serve to activate these reward centers.

What the team found was that the reward center of the brain of the breakfast skippers lit up more vividly when these subjects saw a high calorie food as opposed when they were looking at a healthier alternative.

High calorie foods also were on top of the list of favorites the breakfast skipping subjects listed when asked to rank foods they found most appealing.

Just the opposite was true when it came to the subjects who ate breakfast first, then had the fMRI 90 minutes later.

This time, the reward center of the brain didn’t show any greater activity at the sight of the high calorie foods as when looking at the low calorie ones. What’s more, the subjects didn’t rate the higher calorie foods any more appealing than the lower calorie ones.

“Our results support the advice for eating a healthy breakfast as part of the dietary prevention and treatment of obesity,” says Tony Goldstone, MD, PhD, a consultant endocrinologist with the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College, London.

“When people skip meals, especially breakfast, changes in brain activity in response to food may hinder weight loss and even promote weight gain.”

Skipping breakfast causes your metabolic rate to slow down while your blood sugar also drops.

This brings on feelings of hunger that set you up for impulse eating later on in the morning, at lunch or dinner.

Eating breakfast at the start of your day gives the body the fuel it needs to feel satisfied, so that you’re less likely to overeat, or eat on impulse for the rest of the day.

Here are some quick-to-make, healthy breakfast suggestions to try:

– Milk and whole-grain cereal
– Instant oatmeal topped with raisins and milk
– Whole-grain granola topped with fruit and yogurt
– Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast or a bagel
– Fruit smoothie made with yogurt
– Cheese and whole-grain crackers
– Energy bars so long as you read the labels – some of these have little fiber and as many calories as a candy bar.

Future studies in this area might even uncover ways to prevent the activation of the brain’s reward center so that high calorie choices don’t seem so appealing.

In the meantime, if you’re trying to lose weight or just keep your weight under control not eating breakfast is not an option, as a healthy breakfast including natural sources of protein will help you feel fuller, longer.

Next just head on over to the Daily Health Bulletin for more information why not eating breakfast and skipping meals is bad for your overall health. Plus get 5 free fantastic health reports.

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