November 30, 2010

The Consequences Of Skipping Breakfast

A new study suggests that skipping breakfast may not change how much food a kid eats throughout the rest of the day.

However, the researchers said that missing breakfast could still carry consequences.

Some evidence suggests that skipping breakfast could lead kids to overeat at later meals and eventually pack on extra pounds.  But lead researcher Tanja Kral of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine told Reuters Health that few studies have rigorously tested whether that is what really happens.

Kral and her colleagues set out to assess the effect of skipping breakfast on appetite and total calories consumed throughout an entire day among 21 kids between the ages 8 and 10, most of them who ate breakfast regularly.

Each child was fed a breakfast of cereal, milk, banana and orange juice on one visit and was not served breakfast on another.

The kids were served lunch on both visits, which included pasta, broccoli, applesauce and cookies. 

The children were then free to leave the lab and parents reported back what the kids consumed during the remainder of the day.

Kids said they felt hungrier throughout the morning when they did not eat breakfast.

However, the researchers said that did not necessarily translate into larger lunches. 

"We found that despite differences in feelings of hunger and fullness, children who regularly consume breakfast did not make up for the missing calories from a skipped breakfast on a single occasion by eating more later in the day," Kral told Reuters.

The kids who ate breakfast ended up consuming more calories overall, including more than they needed to maintain their current weights.

The average kid took in 362 more calories on days when they ate breakfast, pushing them about 20 percent over their estimated daily energy requirement.

The authors wrote in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that the disconnect between the kids' stated hunger levels, physical energy needs, and how much they actually ate may be explained by other factors.

"A child's food intake is very much influenced by factors in the environment, such as the amounts and types of foods that are available," Kral explained. "Hence, these environmental factors can override feelings of hunger and fullness."

Kral said that studying children with a wider range of body weights and ages, or kids who regularly skip breakfast, may have yielded different results.

She also said that their findings do not support skipping breakfast, which is still important for other reasons.

"Breakfast is an important part of a healthy diet," Kral told Reuters. "A healthy breakfast provides many important nutrients that are crucial for children's growth and development."

"Children who skip breakfast may not make up for those missing nutrients later in the day," she added.

General Mills supported the study and supplied the breakfast cereals used during the tests.


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