The Jakarta Post
Understanding the response of fat cells to ingestion of food at different times of the day may lead to more precise and effective targeting of those mechanisms. (Shutterstock/-)
A recent randomized control trial (RCT), which results have been published in the Journal of Physiology, finds that regularly eating a substantial morning meal directly changes the activity of genes involved in the metabolism of fats and resistance to insulin, thereby altering how fat cells function.
It follows that eating a hearty breakfast every morning may help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. According to study authors, even if breakfast consumption increases aggregate calorie intake, those extra calories may be offset by other energy-burning benefits.
In the study, researchers asked 49 people between ages 21 and 60 to either eat breakfast or fast until midday, everyday for a period of six weeks. The breakfast group was asked to eat 700 calories or more before 11 a.m., with at least half of those calories consumed within two hours of waking. They were at liberty to choose whatever foods they wanted to eat, but most opted for typical breakfast foods like cereals and toast. The activity of 44 different genes and proteins related to metabolism and other physiological processes, and the response to changing insulin levels were measured by taking biopsies of test subjects’ fat cells.
Eating breakfast proved to inhibit the activity of genes involved in burning fat, in people who had normal weights. So, there was some evidence that skipping breakfast encourages fat burning. However, the total energy balance—which is the primary aspect for weight loss or maintenance—did not dramatically differ between the groups. “Breakfast consumption increased total calorie intake in lean people, but this was offset by breakfast also stimulating physical activity energy expenditure in lean people,” lead author Javier Gonzalez of University of Bath told Time.
In addition, eating a morning meal was shown to inhibit the activity of genes coding for insulin resistance, thereby increasing uptake and utilization of sugar by body cells. This could potentially protect against type 2 diabetes and a host of other chronic illnesses. Gonzalez reported that these findings are congruent with their previous observations that “breakfast consumption is associated with better glucose control in fat cells”. However, the implications of this on disease risk are yet to be investigated.
In the obese cohort, it was found that the more fat a person had, the less responsive their fat cells were to insulin. At least one gene associated with fat burning was also more active among the obese people who are breakfast, compared to those fasting. The obese people who were fasting exhibited heightened activity of genes associated with inflammation. From this, it can be inferred that the guidelines for breakfast consumption should be determined by whether the consumer is lean or obese, although more research is required to confirm such a proposition.
Since the cohorts in the study opted for carbohydrate-rich breakfasts, it is difficult to say how the results would have been different with other sorts of breakfasts, say high-protein meals. Gonzales says the effect of varied compositions in breakfast is currently being explored, along with how the consumption of breakfast interacts with other lifestyle habits such as exercise.
Understanding the response of fat cells to ingestion of food at different times of the day may lead to more precise and effective targeting of those mechanisms. “We may be able to uncover new ways to prevent the negative consequences of having a large amount of body fat,” Gonzalez remarks, by doing something as simple as eating breakfast daily. (afr/kes)