Back in 2011 there was some media coverage of a story that said a new survey had shown that getting up early was linked with being happier and slimmer. The Daily Mail ran the headline “Want to be happier and slimmer? Get up earlier.” That doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. I was interested at the time, but there was no link to any actual research so I forgot about it. But by a fluke I happened to come across what I think must have been the origin of the story. It was published in a respected scientific journal in January 2013 and has the rather less striking title of “Breakfast habits, beliefs and measures of health and wellbeing in a nationally representative UK sample.” It turns out that the study didn’t show a link between early rising and weight. In fact there was no difference. It actually showed that people who eat breakfast believe that eating breakfast makes them slimmer.
Breakfast eaters were healthier, which is good news. But two thirds of people already eat breakfast on a regular basis, and only 6% of people never eat breakfast. So that tiny minority of people might benefit by getting some corn flakes in. Though when you look you will see the study was sponsored by Kellogg’s. This might well make you suspicious about the survey. I don’t doubt that the researchers were conscientious enough in carrying it out, and the results will have been peer reviewed. But it is often the case that the results of a survey can be profoundly influenced by the wording of the questions.
So the intriguing idea that getting up early can help with slimming turns out to have no actual support other than a lot of people believe eating breakfast keeps you slimmer, and if you get up earlier I suppose you have more time to eat it. Oh well, that is fairly typical for tabloid reporting.
It is a shame, because getting up early is something that anyone can do, doesn’t cost anything and also gives you the chance to get on with things that benefit from the lack of distractions while everyone else is asleep. (Blogging for example.) I can think of a rationale for why it might work. Getting up relatively early means that you space your three meals more evenly throughout the day. If you break your fast at 7 rather than 9 you are two hours closer to your evening meal of the day before. So presumably your blood sugar levels are higher and you are less likely to overeat to compensate.
But that is just a hunch on my part. Science is about data not opinions and hunches.
Daily Mail story.