September 7, 2005

Cereal May Be Best Breakfast for the Waistline

NEW YORK -- Women who favor cereal for breakfast tend to weigh less than their peers who opt for other breakfast foods or who skip the meal altogether, according to a new study.

Whether cereal directly lends a hand in weight control is unclear, but the study authors speculate that the fiber, vitamins and minerals in many boxed cereals may play a role.

Also unknown is why the potential benefit was limited to women. Among men, neither breakfast cereal nor breakfast consumption in general had an impact on weight.

Dr. Won O. Song, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, and her colleagues report the findings in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. One of Song's co-authors is with cereal maker Kellogg, which partially funded the study.

The researchers based their findings on results from a national health and nutrition survey conducted by U.S. health officials in 1999-2000. Of the 4,218 adults surveyed, 77 percent were breakfast eaters, 22 percent of whom favored ready-to-eat cereal.

Among women, those who ate cereal were 30 percent less likely to be overweight than women who skipped breakfast, even when other factors, such as exercise and total calorie intake, were considered. Women who favored other breakfast foods, however, were similar to their breakfast-shunning peers.

It's not possible to conclude from this study that cereal, per se, helps in weight control, according to Song and her colleagues. Still, they note that compared with other breakfast eaters, cereal fans ate more fiber and less fat -- a dietary pattern that has been linked to better weight control.

In addition, they point out, the calcium in milk, and often in cereals themselves, may be important, as research suggests that the mineral helps keep body fat in check.

Other researchers have speculated that skipping breakfast altogether may do the waistline more harm than good because people may make up for it by eating more calorie-laden, fat-filled snacks later in the day.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, September 2005.