German researchers say those who want to lose weight should start watching what they eat from the minute they get up. The study, reported in a Nutrition Journal, found that those who eat a big breakfast in the morning continue to eat heartily throughout the day, which boosted their overall calorie intake.

Dr Volker Schusdziarra, of the Technical University of Munich, asked almost 400 men and women to eat normally but to note down everything they ate for 10 days. He then checked how many calories were in each of their meals.

According to conventional wisdom, a big breakfast should curb appetite and so be followed by smaller meals over the rest of the day. Instead, people tended to eat similar amounts for lunch and dinner, no matter how they started the day.

Dr Schusdziarra explained his findings, saying: "It is said that if you eat a big breakfast you will eat fewer calories over the rest of the day but that is not true.

"I always tell my patients to start reducing calories from breakfast time. If someone likes a high-calorie breakfast, then they have to save the calories in another meal."

He suggests that dieters go easy on bread, toast and butter and tuck into eggs and cold ham for breakfast.

Sian Porter, of the British Dietetic Association, stressed the importance of eating breakfast, saying:  "It has been shown that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, lose weight more successfully and have a reduced risk of certain diseases.

"It is better to eat something than nothing, so make sure you have things to hand you can grab, like a banana, fruit salad, or yoghurt with muesli for those mornings when you are in a spin."

 If you'd like to comment on this story, please email the editorial team at: enquiries@jfhc.co.uk