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Fact: Breakfast cereals associated with lower body mass index

27 August 2014

A study among adolescents to be published in the British Journal of Nutrition1 concludes that higher portion sizes of a number of energy dense foods are associated with a higher body mass index in adolescents who are estimated to underreport their food intake.

Commenting on the research, Dr Carrie Ruxton an independent dietitian and advisor to the Breakfast Cereal Information Service (BCIS) notes: "These findings from this latest research are somewhat surprising given that consumption of breakfast cereals in particular among youngsters is associated with lower BMI in a significant number of studies.

"A US cross-sectional study conducted on a sample of 603 children aged 4–12 years found that frequent consumption of breakfast cereals was associated with a lower BMI (P< 0•01)2. Findings from another cross-sectional study conducted in 700 Greek children aged 10 -12 years provided evidence that daily consumption of breakfast, and consumption of breakfast cereals in particular, were associated with a lower prevalence of overweight or obesity.3

"Similar results were reported by a cross-sectional study conducted in over 2,000 Greek adolescents4 and another in in a sample of 392 adolescents (183 boys, 209 girls) aged 15 years living in Crete.5

"Other studies have reported similar associations. In particular, results from a survey conducted in a sample of 2,075 British schoolchildren showed that BMI values were lower amongst frequent breakfast cereal consumers.6 In a Spanish study,7 obese children aged 9–13 years tended to consume significantly less breakfast cereals at breakfast compared with normal-weight children, while a US cross-sectional study among a sample of 1,389 children aged 1 - 12 years showed that the consumption of breakfast cereals at breakfast was associated with a healthier body weight. 8

"In a cohort of 2,379 US girls, aged between 9 and 10 years at baseline, regular consumption of cereal at breakfast within an overall healthful lifestyle was predictive of a lower BMI at age 19 to 20 years.9 "Cross-sectional data from 4,320 children (aged 9-13 years) and 5,339 adolescents (aged 14-18 years) in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey evaluated body weight among breakfast cereals consumers and breakfast skippers, finding that breakfast cereals consumers had a lower BMI on average.10"

Dr Ruxton adds: "Overall, there is significant evidence that adolescents who consume breakfast cereals have a healthier BMI than those who do not consume breakfast cereals. In this current study1 which concluded that higher portion sizes of selected energy dense foods including high fibre breakfast cereals were associated with higher BMI, there is some uncertainty about the actual portion sizes as these were not weighed directly and there was also a significant amount (73%) of underreporting of food intake in the study. These factors therefore cast doubt on the study conclusions. Overall, this was a study focusing on energy intake, energy density and BMI. While it is not surprising that increasing energy intake increases the risk of an unhealthy BMI, breakfast cereals cannot be implicated in weight gain among adolescents given the significant evidence which shows that breakfast cereal consumers have a healthier BMI. Given their micronutrient content, breakfast cereals consumed on a regular basis in recommended portion sizes form an important part of a healthy diet."

For further information or to arrange an interview with a BCIS spokesperson, contact:

  • Nicky Smith, Nexus Healthcare, on 020 7052 8850/ nicky.smith@nexuspr.com
  • Philippa Short, Nexus Healthcare, on 020 7052 8833/ Philippa.short@nexuspr.com

Note to editors: References

1 Albar S, Alwan N, Evans C, Cade J. Is there an association between food portion size and BMI among British adolescents? British Journal of Nutrition (2014), 112, 841–851

2 Albertson AM, Anderson GH, Crockett SJ, Goebel MT. Ready-to-eat cereal consumption: its relationship with BMI and nutrient intake of children aged 4 to 12 years. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103(12):1613-9.

3 Panagiotakos DB, Antonogeorgos G, Papadimitriou A, Anthracopoulos MB, Papadopoulos M, Konstantinidou M, et al. Breakfast cereal is associated with a lower prevalence of obesity among 10-12-year-old children: the PANACEA study. Nutrition metabolism and cardiovascular diseases: NMCD 2008; 18(9):606.

4 Kosti RI, Panagiotakos DB, Zampelas A, Mihas C, Alevizos A, Leonard C, et al. The association between consumption of BREAKFAST CEREALS and BMI in schoolchildren aged 12-17 years: the VYRONAS study. Public health nutrition 2008; 11(10):1015.

5 Kafatos A, Linardakis M, Bertsias G, Mammas I, Fletcher R, Bervanaki F. Consumption of ready-to-eat cereals in relation to health and diet indicators among school adolescents in Crete, Greece. Annals of nutrition & metabolism 2005; 49(3):165.

6 Gibson SA, O'Sullivan KR. Breakfast cereal consumption patterns and nutrient intakes of British schoolchildren. Journal of the Royal Society of Health 1995;115(6):366.

7 Ortega RM, Requejo AM, López SAM, Quintas ME, Andrés P, Redondo MR, et al. Difference in the breakfast habits of overweight/obese and normal weight schoolchildren. International journal for vitamin and nutrition research.Internationale Zeitschrift für Vitamin- und Ernährungsforschung.Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition 1998; 68(2):125.

8 Williams BM, O'Neil CE, Keast DR, Cho S, Nicklas TA. Are breakfast consumption patterns associated with weight status and nutrient adequacy in African-American children? Public health nutrition 2009; 12(4):489.

9 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.

10 Deshmukh-Taskar PR, Nicklas TA, O'Neil CE, Keast DR, Radcliffe JD, Cho S. 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; 110(6):869-78