A high-calorie breakfast could help people lose weight and protect against diabetes and high blood pressure, researchers have claimed.

Researchers split 93 obese women into two groups. Each group ate 1,400 calories daily for 12 weeks. The first group consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 200 at dinner. The second group ate 200 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 700 at dinner.

By the end of the study, those in the 'big breakfast' group had lost an average of 17.8 pounds each and three inches off their waist, compared to a 7.3 pound and 1.4 inch loss for women in the 'big dinner' group. The big breakfast group also showed a more significant decrease in insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels.

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We've all heard the saying 'breakfast like a king', but this study shows that eating more in the morning may actually help weight loss. The research suggests that the timing of our meals may be as important as what's on the menu.

"However, this is a small study, which only followed women and stopped after 12 weeks. We need further research to see how these results would translate to men and also to check long-term impact.

"In the meantime, a filling breakfast is a great way to start your day. Wholegrain toast or breakfast cereals with low-fat milk will make that mid-morning snack less tempting. If you're going for a cooked breakfast, try poached eggs instead of fried and make sure you grill any bacon or sausages."

The research was published in Obesity, the journal of The Obesity Society.