Teens' poor breakfast habits predict future health problems

February 11, 2014 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Teens' poor breakfast habits predict future health problems

Teenagers who didn't eat a good breakfast were more likely to be obese and have elevated blood sugar in middle age, a new study shows.

Researchers at Umea University in Sweden found that teens who reported eating no breakfast or only sweets were two-thirds more likely to develop a cluster of risk factors linked to heart disease and diabetes when they were in their 40s than their peers who ate more substantial morning meals.

It’s possible that eating breakfast helps kids stick to a healthier diet the rest of the day.

Studies how that children who miss breakfast experience hunger surges and tend to overeat later in the day.

The research team reviewed data from 889 people in Lulea, Sweden. In 1981, when they were 16 years old, the participants completed questionnaires about what they ate for breakfast on a single day.

Researchers then examined them in 2008, when they were 43 years old, for metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

They found that 27 percent had developed signs of the syndrome.

Moreover, those who reported missing breakfast or eating a poor-quality one as a teenager were 68 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome in middle age.

When the researchers analyzed separate components of the syndrome, they found that obesity and high blood sugar levels at age 43 were linked with poor breakfast habits at age 16.

In addition to a large waistline and high blood sugar, components of  metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure and low "good" or HDL cholesterol.

The authors noted the study's limitations, including that the 1981 questionnaire asked teens only about a single day's breakfast. They also did not know the participants' adult breakfast habits.

The benefits of a healthy breakfast extend beyond physical health to thinking skills and academic performance.

An ideal breakfast would include protein, healthy fat and a source of carbohydrates like fruit or vegetables or minimally processed whole grains.

Source: Public Health Nutrition, online January 28, 2014.

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