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Breakfast is good for your health

01 May 2014

We all want to stay well and perform at our best, so an important first step is making sure we eat breakfast every day. However, breakfast skipping is all too common in both adults and children. A study in UK schoolchildren aged 10-16 years[1] found that almost a third of children regularly missed breakfast before school and were more likely than their classmates to be inactive, unfit and very overweight. In general, breakfast skipping is associated with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).[2]

Skipping breakfast is not good for our diets or body weight, as hunger peaks mid-morning leading to an increased risk of snacking on unhealthy foods. In contrast, research has consistently found that the breakfast habit seems to protect against piling on the pounds. A recent review[3] found that adults who ate ready to eat cereals were less likely than breakfast skippers to be overweight or obese, and also had fewer heart health risk factors.[4]

In a similar study among youngsters aged 9-13 years, those who ate ready to eat cereals had lower intakes of dietary fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of carbohydrates, dietary fibre, and several vitamins and minerals when compared with breakfast skippers and youngsters who ate other types of breakfasts. Breakfast skippers also had higher age-appropriate BMI and a higher waist circumference than youngsters who ate ready to eat cereals and other types of breakfast. [5]

Skipping breakfast is thought to influence our cognitive (mental) performance. Research reveals that breakfast skipping in children aged 8-10 years, who usually ate breakfast, decreased their energy levels and cheerfulness.[6] In a study among 40 youngsters who usually skipped breakfast, respondents said they felt more alert, full and content after consumption of breakfast cereals.[7] More recent studies continue to show the risks to our health of skipping breakfast, including an increased risk of diabetes,[8] a higher risk of serious heart health problems[9] and metabolic syndrome [10] - the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Such research data provide yet more evidence why breakfast is the most important meal of the day whatever your age!

BREAKFAST CEREAL INFORMATION SERVICE FAST FACTS: Breakfast cereals provide the basis of a healthy breakfast. They are fortified with a range of essential vitamins and minerals. Several studies in both children[11] and adults [12] indicate consistently that breakfast cereals eaters have higher intakes of B vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc and calcium, compared with non-consumers.

[1] Sandercock GRH Voss C, Dye L. Associations between habitual school-day breakfast consumption, body mass index, physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness in English schoolchildren. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64, 1086-1092 (October 2010) | doi:10.1038/ejcn.2010.145. Study included: 4,326 English schoolchildren [2] Szajewska H, Ruszczynski M. Systematic review demonstrating that breakfast consumption influences body weight outcomes in children and adolescents in Europe. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Feb;50(2):113-9. doi: 10.1080/10408390903467514.

[3] Mason P, Ruxton C. Breakfast cereals. Their role in improving public health. For the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers, [4] Deshmukh-Taskar P, Nicklas TA et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumed with overweight/obesity, abdominal obesity, other cardio metabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in young adults. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): Public Health Nutr. 2013 Nov; 16(11):2073-82. This study included 5,316 adults.

[5] Deshmukh-Taskar PR, Nicklas TA et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jun; 110(6):869-78. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.023. This study included 4,320 children/adolescents aged 9-13 years.

[6] Kral TV, Heo M, Whiteford LM et al Effects on cognitive performance of eating compared with omitting breakfast in elementary schoolchildren. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2012 Jan;33(1):9-16. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31823f2f35.

[7] Defeyter MA, Russo R. The effect of breakfast cereal consumption on adolescents' cognitive performance and mood. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Nov 20;7:789. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00789.

[8] Mekary R, Giovannucci E, Willett WC, van Dam RM, Hu FB. Eating patterns and type 2 diabetes risk in men: breakfast omission, eating frequency, and snacking. Am J Clin Nutr 28 March 2012, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.028209.

[9] Cahill LE, Chiuve SE, Mekary RA et al. Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals. Circulation, 2013; 128 (4): 337

[10] Wennberg M, Gustafsson PE, Wennberg P Hammarstro¨m. A. Poor breakfast habits in adolescence predict the metabolic syndrome in adulthood. Public Health Nutrition 2014 doi:10.1017/S1368980013003509

[11] Albertson AM, Affenito SG, Bauserman R,et al. The relationship of ready-to-eat cereal consumption to nutrient intake, blood lipids, and body mass index of children as they age through adolescence. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2009;109(9):1557.

Barton BA, Eldridge AL, Thompson D, Affenito SG, Striegel MRH, Franko DL, et al. The relationship of breakfast and cereal consumption to nutrient intake and body mass index: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2005; 105(9):1383.

[12] Galvin MA, Kiely M, Flynn A. Impact of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (RTEBC) consumption on adequacy of micronutrient intakes and compliance with dietary recommendations in Irish adults. Public Health Nutr 2003; 6(4):351-63.Holmes BA, Kaffa N, Campbell K, Sanders TA. The contribution of BREAKFAST CEREALS to the nutritional intake of the materially deprived UK population. Eur J Clin Nutr 2012;66(1):10-7.