Skipping Cereal and Eggs, and Packing on Pounds

New York Times 25 March 2008
Researchers have found evidence that Mom was right: breakfast may really be the most important meal of all. A new study reports that the more often adolescents eat breakfast, the less likely they are to be overweight. The researchers examined the eating and exercise habits of 1,007 boys and 1,215 girls, with an average age of 15 at the start of the five-year study — a racially and economically diverse sample from public schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

The authors found a direct relationship between eating breakfast and body mass index; the more often an adolescent had breakfast, the lower the B.M.I. And whether they looked at the data at a given point or analyzed changes over time, that relationship persisted. Why eating breakfast should lead to fewer unwanted pounds is unclear, but the study found that breakfast eaters consumed greater amounts of carbohydrates and fiber, got fewer calories from fat and exercised more. Consumption of fiber-rich foods may improve glucose and insulin levels, making people feel satisfied and less likely to eat more later in the day.

The study appears in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Mark A. Pereira, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, said that eating a healthy breakfast would “promote healthy eating throughout the day and might help to prevent situations where you’re grabbing fast food or vending machine food.” Dr. Pereira added that parents could begin to set a good example by sitting down to breakfast themselves. “The whole family structure is involved here,” he said.