Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center in Houston, TX, designed a study examining the relationship between breakfast skipping or type of breakfast eaten and nutrient intake, nutrient adequacy, and adiposity.
They found that twenty percent of children and 31.5% adolescents were breakfast skippers. 35.9% of children and 25.4% of adolescents consumed ready-to-eat cereals. The children and adolescents who ate cereal had lower intakes of total fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of carbohydrate, dietary fiber, and a several micronutrients than both breakfast skippers and other breakfast eaters.
The researchers also found that the breakfast skippers had higher body mass index (BMI) size-for-age scores and higher waist circumferences than cereal or other-breakfast eaters. The prevalence of obesity among breakfast skippers was higher than that of cereal and other-breakfast eaters.
There are various reasons that children and adolescents skip breakfast. The reasons include household structure – single-parent or low income households had a higher percent of children/adolescents who skipped breakfast – limited time, limited resources for making breakfast, or limited knowledge about health and nutrition about breakfast. Another reason involves concerns about weight, and skipping breakfast seems like a way to reduce caloric intake.
The researchers note that the exact link between breakfast consumption and lower body weight is unclear, but there are several reasons. Children/adolescents who consumed breakfast tended to have a higher intake of total energy and total sugar, but breakfast skippers may tend to eat more foods with low nutrient or higher energy density – such as fast foods. Breakfast skippers may also eat increased numbers of discretionary calories (such as higher fat foods, candy bars, etc) later in the day. The researchers suggest that breakfast skipping may lead to excess hunger, rebound overeating, and consumption of larger portion sizes.
Breakfast consumption may be associated with an increased frequency of eating meals, which might provide a more steady flow of nutrients and prevent phases of hunger and overfullness, and may contribute to lower fat intake, higher overall nutrient-density, and may play a role in reducing body fat.