BREAKFAST SKIPPING AMONG CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN THE UNITED STATES: A LARGE US STUDY

Published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in June 2010, a Baylor College of Medicine and US Department of Agriculture study reports interesting data about the association between breakfast skipping and obesity.  The study examined 4,320 children age 4-13 years in addition to 5,339 children age 14-18 years.  The data is an analysis of data collected from what is called the National Health and Nutrition examination survey, which ran from 1999 -2006.  It involved a type of survey using 24 hour dietary recall and then some sophisticated statistical analysis using multivariate analysis.

Interestingly, 20% of the children age 9-13 and 31.5% of the adolescents were breakfast skippers.  This number is quite a bit higher than the percentages reported for preschool age children.  It probably more closely approximates that of adults who are known to develop behaviors of breakfast skipping as the demands of more advanced education and work become paramount.

Additionally, the study found that approximately 36% of the children and 25% of the adolescents consumed what were called “ready-to-eat” cereals, the kind of breakfast that comes in a box with lots of nice illustrations on the outside.  While those “ready-to-eat” or RTE cereal consumers were taking in higher levels of helpful micronutrients and dietary fiber, they were also taking in higher amounts of total carbohydrates.  They did have lower intakes of total fat and cholesterol.

The key finding was that the breakfast skippers had a higher body mass index and higher waist circumference than the breakfast eaters who ate boxed cereal.  Obesity was higher in the breakfast skippers.

So what this study tells us, from examination of nearly 10,000 young people in the United States, is that while the ready-to-eat boxed cereals may not be perfect, eating them for breakfast every day is probably far better than skipping breakfast.  We’ve seen that skipping breakfast is associated with higher waist circumference, poorer eating behaviors later in the day and greater changes of obesity.  Studies from Fiji, to Canada to the United States support this finding.  And while the boxed breakfast cereals may not be the ideal nutrition, they are clearly better than the eating behavior of skipping breakfast altogether.

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