Bristol

Obese people needed in diet study at University of Bath

Bowl of muesli
Image caption Participants are asked to consume a 700-calorie breakfast during the study

Overweight and obese people are being asked to take part in a University of Bath study to find out whether eating breakfast aids weight loss.

The project began 18 months ago where "normal weight" people were monitored when eating or skipping breakfast.

Now they want about 30 overweight volunteers to do the same so the results can be compared.

Researchers say there is no medical evidence to show whether breakfast has a direct impact on improved health.

700 calories

Instead most scientific research has shown people who do not eat breakfast are more likely to be overweight (with a BMI of 25 -30) or obese (with a BMI above 30) and have an increased risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

So far about 50 people who are "normal weight" (with a BMI of between 20 and 25) have been tested on daily basis using blood samples over a period of up to 12 weeks where they visit the clinic five times.

Dr James Betts and Dr Dylan Thompson, from the Human Physiology Group at the university, are leading the study.

"While there's no evidence at all to show whether breakfast is good for you, what we do have is lots of suggestion in the scientific literature that certain factors might affect whether breakfast is good for you," said Dr Betts.

"At the top of the list for me is overweight and obesity.

"There is some suggestion that people who are overweight may benefit more from breakfast than those who are normal weight, but then also that factor might be affected by whether they eat breakfast to start with at baseline."

The 'baseline' is the individual's weight and health status before the study begins.

It takes into account a number of different physiological factors, such as the risk each individual has of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Those eating breakfast must eat 700 calories before 11:00.

Although this may seem like a lot of calories, Dr Betts said this was roughly a third of the daily recommended calorie intake of about 2,500 for a man and 2,000 for a woman.

'Too artificial'

He claimed it was the typical amount of calories consumed for breakfast.

"We were keen not to make it too artificial or laboratory based so we tell people assigned to the breakfast group that they're free to choose whatever they like for the period we ask them to consume it for."

The researchers will also take into account the level of physical activity during the day and what else they consume for the rest of the day.

"If having breakfast is going to help you lose weight as many people would have you think it must either make you snack less and eat less later in the day or make you do more exercise later in the day.

"But the first one doesn't seem to be the case and no-one seems to have measured exercise before, so we're going to be able to look at physical activity habits later in the day which are actually likely to be more affected by breakfast."

The study is expected to take another 18 months to complete and people interested in taking part can contact researchers through the Bath Breakfast Project.

Once the results are studied, the information may be used to shape government health policy in the future.

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