Chow Line: Details important in breakfast study

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I heard something about research showing that eating a big breakfast is good for people with diabetes. Can you tell me details? 

You probably saw some news coverage of a relatively small study reported at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual meeting in late September.

The findings were intriguing. Participants in the study’s “big breakfast” group ended up with blood sugar level reductions three times greater than those in the “small breakfast” group. About one-third of the big breakfast participants were able to reduce their daily diabetic medication within the study period of three months.

However, it’s important to remember some key facts: The study hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so its findings are considered preliminary. Reports were based solely on the presentation and a press release from the association.

Also, the study involved just 59 people, was relatively brief and appeared to have a high dropout rate. So scientists are anxious to see if the results can be reproduced in more robust studies.

Finally, the big breakfasts in this study also had a higher percentage of protein and fat, which rules out high-carbohydrate morning fare such as a tall stack of pancakes with syrup.

In the study, participants who were in the big breakfast group ate 33 percent of their total daily calories at breakfast time, compared to 12.5 percent of total calories for the small breakfast group.

That means that for participants who consumed 1,800 calories a day, their “big breakfast” would have consisted of 600 calories. It’s not clear what the study participants actually ate, but an example of a 600-calorie breakfast that’s higher in protein and fat would be two extra-large eggs (160 calories); an ounce of cheddar cheese (115 calories); a whole-wheat honey English muffin (130 calories); a tablespoon of peanut butter (95 calories); and a cup of 1 percent milk (100 calories).

In comparison, people in the “small breakfast” group consuming the same 1,800 calories in a day would be limited to 225 calories for breakfast, with a lower proportion of protein and fat. Again, it’s not clear what was on their menu, but they might have had cereal with low-fat milk, for example, or a slice of toast with jam and orange juice. 

While results are preliminary, consistently eating breakfast — especially one with lean protein — is associated with better weight management and lower blood sugar levels. Talk with your doctor or nutritionist for more information.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Amy Habig, registered dietitian and family and consumer sciences educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

CFAES News Team
For more information, contact: 

Amy Habig
OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences