If you’ve ever skipped breakfast only to find yourself scarfing down a burger and some fries at lunchtime, your high calorie binge may be founded in science. A recent study by the MRC Clinical Science Center in London found that when people missed the most important meal of the day, the food pleasure center of their brain was more highly activated by high calorie options at lunch. Fasting made people hungrier when lunch-time rolled around, which in turn, made higher calorie food options more appealing to the reward area of the brain.
The study compared MRI scans for participants in two scenarios. In the first, they ate a 750 calorie breakfast, and were presented with images of high calorie foods, and then fed lunch. In the second, participants went hungry, saw photos of high calorie foods, and then ate lunch. The orbifrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for food pleasure and reward, was more active for those who had not eaten breakfast when viewing the food images, than for those who had eaten breakfast. Additionally, the participants ate more at lunch. The study has not yet been accepted and published by a peer-reviewed journal, but it supports other scientific research showing the importance of the first meal of the day.