Eating a decent breakfast each morning could be the key to shedding the pounds, according to US researchers who published their findings this week in the journal Obesity Research.
The US National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) - an ongoing study of 3,000 individuals - showed that of those who have successfully maintained weight loss, nearly 80 per cent eat breakfast everyday as part of their routine to stay slender.
Of the study participants who eat breakfast, 60 per cent said they always or usually eat a bowl of cereal. "It is striking not just that breakfast eating is a frequent behaviour among individuals within this group, but that such a high proportion report eating breakfast every day of the week," said the study's lead researcher, Dr Jim Hill of the University of Colorado, who is co-director of the NWCR.
The study involved researchers from the University of Colorado, University of Pittsburgh and Brown University and was made possible by grants from the National Institutes of Health and breakfast cereal manufacturer General Mills.
To qualify for the National Weight Control Registry, a person must have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained that weight loss for more than one year; however, the 3,000 registry participants average a 60 pound weight loss and have kept it off for an average of six years.
There is growing evidence that the bowl of cereal may be the key component in losing weight and staying slim. Data from Nielsen's National Eating Trends Survey, presented at the annual conference of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, shows that women who are frequent cereal eaters (more than seven times in a two-week period) weigh about eight pounds less on average than women who eat cereal infrequently or not at all.
The data also indicates that those who do not eat cereal frequently are more likely to be overweight or obese. Among women, infrequent cereal eaters are 16 per cent more likely to be overweight than frequent cereal eaters, and male infrequent cereal eaters are 12 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese, according to Nielsen.
One of the reasons why breakfast may be a key part of losing weight is that it can help reduce hunger later in the day which can lead to overeating. Data shows that breakfast eaters are better able to resist fatty and high caloric foods throughout the day and that nutrients consumed at breakfast may give people a better ability to be more physically active.
The ironic thing is that many people's strategy for losing weight is to skip a meal, invariably breakfast. The study shows that 25 per cent of Americans now skip breakfast, and overweight and obesity rates have nearly doubled over the past decade.