CANADIAN STUDY SHOWS A LINK BETWEEN BREAKFAST SKIPPING AND EXCESS WEIGHT IN PRESCHOOL CHILDREN
In searching for clinical evidence linking eating behaviors and weight gain among children, I recently read a study out of Ottawa, Canada published by a group of epidemiologists in the Public Health Nutrition Journal, June 2006, entitled Breakfast Eating and Overweight in a Preschool Population: Is There a Link. The study was designed as a population based study involving nutritional interviews with parents of preschool age children between four and five years old. The study is part of a longitudinal study of child development and included 1,549 children. And a pretty strong link was found between skipping breakfast and being overweight.
9.8% of the children did not eat breakfast every day. Many of the children who did not eat breakfast had immigrant mothers and less educated mothers (no high school diploma). Additionally, a higher percentage of the breakfast skippers came from low income families.
Analysis of the study data found that skipping breakfast nearly doubled the chances that the preschool child would be overweight when the authors controlled for the other variables involved. Using what is called an odds ratio, a common statistical method in describing the increased chances of obesity, the authors reported an odds ratio of 1.9 for breakfast skippers, meaning a nearly doubled chance of being overweight stemming from breakfast skipping.
In this large, well designed study, the evidence associating breakfast skipping with overweight status among preschoolers is pretty strong. In fact, it is a bit startling that the association with breakfast skipping emerges in such a young age group. The study also identifies groups that are more likely to have breakfast skippers among their toddlers, groups that may be better targets for educational outreach.