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breakfast cereals and the breakfast cereal industy

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Responding to the labour party's public health white paper

16 January 2015


Breakfast cereals contribute only modest amounts of sugar to the UK diet - 6-8% in children's diets and 5% in adults' diets- yet are packed with essential vitamins and minerals.1 Some ready to eat cereals are high in fibre and contain little or no sugar.

Dietitian and mother of two, Dr Carrie Ruxton notes: "Breakfast cereals are a convenient and nutritious part of a balanced diet. They are an excellent source of important vitamins and minerals, with many providing fibre and whole grains. Yet they contribute only around a teaspoon of sugar a day on average to a family's diet.

Several studies find that people who eat breakfast cereals regularly tend to have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than non-consumers, and are at less risk of becoming overweight2. This suggests that breakfast cereals are not contributing to obesity levels. In addition people who eat breakfast cereals are 37% less likely to have high blood pressure, 28% less likely to have high cholesterol levels and 42% less likely to have high insulin levels.

As a result, breakfast cereals should not be singled out as a cause of obesity and ill-health nor should they be blamed for making a large contribution to sugar intakes, as this is clearly incorrect based on the Government's own dietary surveys."

Dr Carrie Ruxton adds: "Worryingly, significant numbers of children and young people continue to skip breakfast, and given the fact that breakfast cereals are packed with important vitamins and minerals, it is important not to discourage the consumption of breakfast cereals. A 2010 study of 4,326 English schoolchildren aged 10-16 years3 found that almost a third of children regularly go without breakfast before school and are more likely than their classmates to be inactive, unfit and overweight. While 68% of pupils ate before leaving home in this study, 32% did not. Of the latter, 25% only sometimes had a morning meal and 7% never had breakfast on school days. Girls were more likely to skip breakfast than boys, with 38.6% of girls and 26.6% of boys skipping breakfast some or all of the time."

In summary, Dr Carrie Ruxton notes: "Breakfast cereals are an important source of vitamins and minerals with breakfast cereals providing 10% of children's daily iron intakes. Increasing numbers of breakfast cereals are high in fibre and whole grains providing people with a nutritious meal and helping thousands of Brits to make a healthier start to their day."

The breakfast cereal industry produces a range of breakfast cereals so that people have a variety of choices. Developments from manufacturers mean that the sugar content of breakfast cereals has been decreasing over the years. This is particularly the case in some children's cereals. Manufacturers are continuously innovating in order to ensure they offer a balanced portfolio of breakfast cereals so shoppers can choose what to buy their family.

Note to editors

Breakfast cereals are the most popular breakfast food with 88% of UK adults sometimes eating it and two thirds having it at least once a week7.

Breakfast cereals contribute essential nutrients to the diet and are typically fortified with vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin D, iron and zinc. When milk is added, this contributes calcium to the diet.

The National Diet and Nutrition Surveys show that a significant proportion of the UK population has intakes of essential nutrients which fall below recommended levels.7 However, several studies in children 8,9 and adults 10,11 indicate consistently that those consuming breakfast cereals have higher intakes of B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, and minerals, such as iron, zinc and calcium, compared with non-consumers.”

References

1. Public Heaslth England / Food Standards Agency 2014. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from years 1,2,3 and 4 combined (2008/09-2011/12).

2. Deshmukh-Taskar P, Nicklas TA, Radcliffe JD 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

3 . 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