Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Somer explains how skipping breakfast can cause unwanted weight gain.
Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Somer:
Oh, great question. Well, it actually goes right down, besides common sense, it goes right down to your little nerve cells in your brain, which release little chemicals called neurotransmitters, or nerve chemicals, and they regulate, not only our mood, but our appetite. And lo and behold, in the morning our nerve, those little nerve cells, those little brain cells release a neurotransmitter, a nerve chemical called NPY, stands for Neuropeptide Y. And NPY turns on our preferences, not so much our cravings because you don’t crave foods in the morning. It turns on our preferences for carbohydrates because that’s the immediate fuel. That’s the fuel your body needs for the brain to function, for your nerves to fire, for the, you know, muscles to contract and relax, and it needs to replenish that glucose store.
So, NPY whispers in your ear, “You want pancakes; you want waffles; you want cereal, oatmeal; you want French toast.” If you were in Japan, you would want rice; if you were in Ethiopia, you would want flat bread; if you were in Costa Rica, you would want beans and rice. All around the world people choose carbs as their morning food--croissants in Paris. And, once you eat those carbs, if you have your bowl of cereal or you have your French toast, then NPY levels start to go down, but if you don’t eat breakfast, if you skip breakfast, NPY levels don’t go away. Your body needs those carbs; it wants those carbs. And so, one of the theories why people that skip breakfast are much more likely to overeat later in the day and therefore have a weight problem in the long run is because by mid-afternoon, if you haven’t gotten those carbs, NPY is now screaming at you to eat carbs and you are much more likely to overeat.
In fact, we have that in the research. People that skip breakfast eat more calories from when they start to eat until bedtime than someone who took five minutes to eat breakfast eats all day long. So that’s the first thing. There’s another neurotransmitter, though, that you need to know about and that one comes in about mid-day. It’s called galanin.
So where you had NPY in the morning whispering to you to eat carbs and you had your bowl of cereal and that went down, galanin comes up mid-day, and now you don’t want a pancake anymore. Now you are thinking a hamburger would be really good because galanin turns on your cravings for fat.
The difference, however, is that if you eat too much fat, galanin stays on and will then be probably one of the reasons why by after dinner, you are sitting on the couch cross-legged with a half gallon of ice cream. Galanin is just the opposite of NPY. NPY is satisfied when you eat carbs; it goes away. Galanin says, “My gosh, there’s fat in the environment. I want as much as I can eat,” and it stays revved up.
So what you want to do at lunch is have a low-fat, have some fat but a low-fat lunch--maybe a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with some mustard, maybe a spinach salad, but don’t smother it in salad dressing, have a little bit of oil and vinegar dressing on it, so that you satisfy the galanin without putting it into overdrive and you end up overeating later.
About Elizabeth Somer:
Elizabeth Somer, M.A., is a registered dietitian who has carved a unique professional niche as one of the few, if not only, dietitians who is well-versed in nutrition research. For 25 years, she has kept abreast of the current research, packaging that information into easy-to-read books, magazine articles, lectures, continuing education seminars, and practical news for the media.