Breakfast is certainly one interesting topic of discussion. On the one hand, many believers like to claim it’s the holy grail of healthy eating. On the other hand, we know very few empirical claims actually support that notion. However, there is another interesting question that has been of interest to scientists – does a healthy breakfast have any influence on your mood or other emotional states? This article explores that question.
Breakfast seems to improve mood for a few hours, according to one study. The authors noted that the healthiness did not play a role, improvements were observed in all cases. In all honesty, this does not come as a surprise – it’s very likely people experienced an increase in blood glucose levels, following their morning meal.
Due to this, their bodies had more energy which could have had an impact on their mood. This idea is supported by another study which found something similar. In this one, scientists observed a very strong overlap between the mood-improving effects of consuming breakfast and differences in blood glucose levels.
What happened was, people reported lower mood levels around the same time when one would expect for the glucose levels to go down back again. Therefore, giving further weight to this idea.
Another study was assessing differences in hyperactivity, depression, and anxiety. Students who were regular breakfast eaters scored better on all three mentioned scales. They were less hyperactive, reported less anxiety, and scored lower on depressive symptomatics, compared to students who weren’t regular breakfast eaters.
This finding was especially clear for hyperactivity, since it was measured by their teachers. The results were astonishing, they reported between between 10% to 50% less hyperactivity in some students. If you’re a teacher, imagine having students who would be 10% to 50% less hyperactive in class. Sounds like something you would like, doesn’t it?
However, different symptoms of anxiety and depression were judged by students themselves. The improvements here could have been due to a social desirability bias. This would, in effect, cause a higher chance for the students to answer in a way the scientists would have wanted them to. Another thing worth mentioning is that the depression scale wasn’t a standardized questionnaire for MDD; Major depressive disorder. They measured only certain aspects of depressive symptoms, the same goes for anxiety and hyperactivity – none of the used questionnaires were clinical tools.
There is another important caveat. These results could be interpreted in other possible ways. The improvements could have been a consequence of other variables, not measured by this study. However, due to the nature of the study itself, it’s hard to give any definitive answers.
The important thing to take home from this one is the possibility of breakfast influencing certain aspects of our psychological functioning; depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity.
Another interesting study gave its participants different breakfasts. They wanted to know whether a different macronutrient composition would have a different effect.
One group had a high fat, low carb breakfast. It included back, eggs, and some toast. The other group had a high carb breakfast. It included cereals and toast. People from the first group reported improvements in mood, they even described themselves as more sociable, outward-going, and less bored afterwards.
Similar effects were observed in another one, where people with a high fat, low carb breakfast reported feeling less tense, not as uncertain, drowsy or muddled, compared to other participants with different types of breakfast.
While all the mentioned studies certainly give interesting insights, as I’ve mentioned half-through the post, there are always a lot of other variables which could have been present. And due to the nature of these studies; they didn’t control for certain possible variables, I would remain skeptical up to a certain point. As I’ve said in my chapter posts questionnaire studies aren’t always the firmest stone to set your foot on.
And while eating a healthy breakfast can definitely contribute to the healthiness of your eating patterns in general, we have to distinguish between simply promoting breakfast, and promoting a breakfast that will include the important macronutrients which will further enhance your quality of life.
PS: Some of these studies were sponsored by Kelloggs. They used their own cereals as breakfast food. I will leave the interpretation of that for everyone to decide on their own.