There are many reasons breakfast is quotably the most important meal of the day, and you can add mental health to the top of that list. Making time to eat breakfast can reduce your chances of mood disorders, as reported by study which followed breakfast patterns and mental health status of participants over 5 years.
The study, published by Cambridge University in the fall of 2019, followed 1304 participants aged 26-36 and determined three eating patterns which were demonstrated in the cohort of volunteers. Traditional caloric intake was defined as highest intakes at traditional, routine times of day such as breakfast, lunch and dinner; grazing caloric intake was defined as steady intake throughout the whole day; and late caloric intake was defined as either a later breakfast or a skipped breakfast, combined with higher consumption in the evenings.
After the 5-year follow-up, the people who followed the “late” pattern of eating had a higher incidence of mood disorder (approximately a 1.73-fold increase). Those who followed the traditional eating pattern had the lowest prevalence of a mood disorder, and the participants who had developed a mood disorder had been following the late pattern of eating for the past 5 years.
The exploratory study found that meal timing influences psychological states. Without further insight into the nutritional composition of the participants’ breakfasts, it is hard to know if later breakfast times resulted in less nutritious food choices; but it seems like a logical factor. Also, was the risk of depression and other mood disorders related to less self-care (such as not eating regularly) which demonstrated a propensity towards depression that was already in place independent of breakfast habits–creating a chicken-or-the-egg situation?
This study would have been more interesting if it had also accounted for nutritional deficiencies (which play a large role in neurobiology and psychology), but it does a good job of defining common eating patterns and the potential outcomes associated with missing breakfast.
Wilson, J.E., et al. “An Eating Pattern Characterised by Skipped or Delayed Breakfast Is Associated with Mood Disorders among an Australian Adult Cohort.” Psychological Medicine, 16 Oct. 2019, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291719002800.