One good breakfast a day keeps weight gain away

Eating a good breakfast and letting go of your snacking habits may provide the key to leading a healthier life and preventing weight gain, a new study shows.
Unhealthy weight gain is a problem that many Americans have to tackle and which state-led programs promoting wholesome dietary habits seek to prevent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36.5 percent of adults, and around 17 percent of children in the United States live with obesity.

Excess weight also puts people at an increased risk of developing serious conditions or diseases, including heart diseasetype 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Research into nutrition, healthy eating habits, and how our diet impacts our day-to-day lives is conducted on a regular basis, with new discoveries being reported all the time. For instance, an analysis recently covered by Medical News Today suggests that some biomarkers could predict the effectiveness of weight loss diets.

A new study on the link between the impact of meals and their frequency to weight gain has now been conducted by Dr. Hana Kahleova, from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health (LLUSPH), in California. She collaborated with colleagues from her own institution, as well as from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine and the Institute of Endocrinology, both based in Prague, Czech Republic.

Participants with peculiar eating habits

Researchers worked with participants from the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2), an endeavor monitoring the health lives of 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists from the U.S. and Canada.

The AHS-2 considers that the Adventist population is situated at a lower risk of developing conditions and diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. This, researchers suggest, may be thanks to their specific eating habits.

Led by Dr. Kahleova, the study included 50,660 adult individuals from this population, all aged 30 or older. The focus was on the possible link between when and how often people eat, and their body mass index (BMI).

The participants had various body types and sizes, the researchers specify, and their eating habits and health outcomes were monitored for an average period of 7 years.

At the outset, the participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire, detailing their medical history, eating practices, physical activity, and other relevant information. As the study went on, they filled in follow-up forms declaring any major health events. The final follow-up questionnaire reported how often participants had normally taken their meals, and at what times of the day.

Breakfast is good, dinner less so

The study had several main findings. In the first place, it showed that people who regularly ate only one or two meals per day had a decrease in BMI. Conversely, those who ate more than three meals a day increased their BMI, and the more meals they ate, including snacks, the greater the weight gain.

The researchers also found that people who had breakfast regularly tended to lose more weight than people who chose to skip breakfast.

More importantly, the participants whose largest meal of the day was breakfast experienced a large BMI decrease, in contrast with those who made lunch or dinner their largest meal.

Additionally, the researchers found that skipping dinner altogether and having a long, 18 or 19-hour, overnight fast contributed to weight loss.

Other good eating practices, the researchers observe, include leaving 5 or 6 hours between breakfast and lunch, and abstaining from snacks throughout the day.

These findings confirm what previous studies conducted on smaller population samples also inferred. The importance of breakfast to our diet and its impact on our general health have long been appreciated, yet this is the first recent analysis to be conducted on such a large, unrestricted population sample.

Age affects BMI

The researchers also highlighted that there is a strong link between BMI and advancing age. According to them, participants younger than 60 tended to gain more weight, whereas those over 60 tended to experience a loss in BMI.

In this context, they note that people under 60 with more mindful dietary habits, who eat breakfast as their main meal, tend to avoid the weight gain that is to be expected in their age category.

“Before age 60 years, those eating calories earlier in the day had less weight gain,” says Prof. Fraser. “Over decades, the total effect [of regularly eating a large breakfast] would be very important,” he adds.

At the same time, the study observes that people over 60, who naturally lose more weight, will be similarly affected by this regime, which could lead to negative health outcomes in some cases.

A clearer understanding of the impact that meal frequency and the importance that meals have on BMI levels could, therefore, help us make better, more informed decisions about our individual health and dietary needs.

Causes of baldness, gray hair identified

A study of a rare genetic disease may have yielded a cure for hair graying and baldness, after researchers unintentionally discovered the mechanisms that give rise to the conditions.

Study co-author Dr. Lu Le, of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, and colleagues set out to investigate a disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a genetic condition whereby tumors grow on nerves.

The aim of the study was to discover the mechanisms behind tumor growth in NF1. Instead, the researchers identified the processes responsible for hair loss and graying, a discovery that could lead to new treatments for the conditions.

The researchers recently reported their findings in the journal Genes and Development.

According to the American Hair Loss Association, by the age of 35, around two thirds of men in the United States will experience some degree of hair loss, and of all those with the condition in the U.S., 40 percent are women.

When it comes to hair graying, a 2012 study found that around 6 to 23 percent of adults across the globe can expect to have at least 50 percent gray hair coverage at the age of 50 years.

While hair loss and graying are considered by many as a normal part of aging, for some, the conditions can be highly distressing. Dr. Le and colleagues believe that their discovery could pave the way to new treatments for hair graying and baldness.

Findings may lead to topical treatments

The team notes that studies had already determined that hair follicles contain stem cells that play a role in hair production, and that a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) is involved in hair pigmentation.

In their study, Dr. Le and team found that once stem cells move to the base of hair follicles, a protein called KROX20 – better known for its role in nerve development – is activated in skin cells that form hair shafts, known as hair progenitor cells.

The researchers found that when KROX20 is activated, the hair progenitor cells produce SCF, which they discovered is crucial for hair pigmentation.

In mice with skin cells that possessed both KROX20 and SCF, the researchers found that the skin cells communicated with melanocyte cells to form pigmented hairs. Melanocyte cells produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes.

When the researchers deleted SCF in the mice, the researchers found that the rodents grew gray hairs, and these hairs turned white with age. When KROX20-producing cells were erased, the mice did not grow any hair.

The researchers say that their findings indicate that abnormalities in KROX20 and SCF play a significant role in hair loss and graying, though studies in humans are required to confirm their results.

Still, Dr. Le and colleagues believe that their findings show promise for the development of new therapies for baldness and hair graying.

Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, we ended up learning why hair turns gray and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair.

With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems.”

Dr. Lu Le