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Stepwise Success

Eat Breakfast, Work Smarter

Published February 5, 2014 6:13 AM by Scott Warner

We employed a temp doctor who loved terrible breakfasts. During rounds we would stop by the dictation room to update her on cultures and other issues, and she listened while inhaling a fast food breakfast sausage muffin egg and cheese thing wrapped in a baby space blanket. I can smell it as I write about it.

Lab techs aren’t any better, bringing in muffins, bear claws, bagels, donuts, and those muffin egg things. We’re all busy, and we all tend to eat on the go to save time. When stress comes to shove, it’s therapeutic to eat comfort foods.

But two hours later, everyone is drony, irritable, and jonesing for break. Could this be related to the quality (or lack) of breakfast?

Much has been published on the effects of breakfast on schoolchildren to justify funding meal programs and educate parents, although the data doesn’t appear conclusive. An article in Public Health Nutrition concludes that the effect of fasting on performance isn’t uniform and may be linked to the nutritional status of the children, but breakfast does have short-term effects on memory that may be linked to glucose levels. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition agrees that definitive conclusions of the how breakfast affects cognition and memory are elusive, but eliminating it does interfere, especially with malnourished children. But the journal Pediatrics has this regarding a crossover trial of 104 students between 13 and 20 years:

Breakfast had no effect on sustained attention among high school students. Visuospatial memory was improved in male students. Self-reported alertness improved significantly in the entire study population. Male students reported feeling more positive after consuming breakfast, compared with the fasting condition.

It’s terribly easy for workers to pick up something sugary on the way to work to jack up energy and mood. And as the studies on nutrition in school children suggest, this may have short-term effects. Skipping breakfast seems like a bad idea all around.

I can easily imagine that breakfast affects alertness (and maybe the quality of work) at the bench. I’ll have to ruminate this over my next cup of coffee.

NEXT: It’s All About the Customer


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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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