KIDS
March 5, 2014

Don't Let Your Kids Skip Breakfast

Kids who don't eat in the morning aren't just depriving themselves of nutrients, they are setting the stage for major health issues down the road.

Does your teenager rush out the door in the mornings and skip breakfast altogether? Maybe she grabs a pastry and a soft drink as she heads off to school. If so, she’s greatly increasing her risk of health problems by the time she reaches middle age, even though she probably won’t believe you now if you try to tell her.

Breakfast has long carried the title of “Most Important Meal of the Day.” Eating breakfast can reduce the risk of heart disease, help regulate blood sugar, and promoteweight loss, just to mention a few of its benefits.

Those who skipped breakfast or otherwise had poor breakfast habits at age 16 had a 68 percent higher incidence of metabolic syndrome at age 43.

When teens skip breakfast or just eat or drink something sweet, they will have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome in adulthood, a disorder that raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, according to a study published in Public Health Nutrition.

Researchers at Umea University in Sweden followed approximately 1,000 people for 27 years starting when they were 16 years old. The teens filled out a questionnaire about their breakfast habits among other topics and had their health checked over the years.

At age 43 they were examined for the presence of metabolic syndrome. Those who skipped breakfast or otherwise had poor breakfast habits at age 16 had a 68 percent higher incidence of metabolic syndrome at age 43.

There are five risk factors typically associated with metabolic syndrome: a large waistline, otherwise known as central obesity; high triglyceride level; a low HDL cholesterol level; high blood pressure; and high fasting blood sugar.

Adolescents who reported poor breakfast habits had a higher prevalence of diabetes in their family history, consumed more alcohol, were more likely to smoke, and were less physically active compared to those who ate breakfast. However, even after adjusting for these factors, breakfast intake — or the lack of it — was a predictor of metabolic risk.

People with metabolic syndrome are twice as likely to develop heart disease and have a five-fold greater risk of developing diabetes as someone who doesn't have metabolic syndrome. Even having just one of the risk factors raises the risk of heart disease.

Ten to 30 percent of children and adolescents in the US and Europe regularly skip breakfast, according to the authors, and the habit of skipping breakfast increases from childhood to adulthood.

“Considering the amount of people skipping breakfast in the USA and Europe, it is crucial from a public health point of view to identify predictors and in future research also analyze possible causal mechanisms behind adolescent breakfast habits and future metabolic risk,” they write.

Studies like this one make it clear how eating habits formed in childhood and adolescence serve as good predictors of future health problems. This is why research into effective interventions needs to continue until the tide begins to turn the other way.

The message for parents is that encouraging their children to always eat a healthy breakfast (even just a slice or two of whole grain toast and piece of fruit) is one of the best things they can do for their health and well being.

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