Importance of a Healthy Breakfast

  • Importance of a Healthy and Balanced Breakfast

1. Breakfast helps support brain function

  • Skipping breakfast may worsen early morning tasks and slow down memory, leading to lower rates of intellectual performance. This is particularly relevant in the case of children since they have a two-fold higher utilization of glucose by the brain than adults. Also because of greater sleep demands for glucose they have lesser stores in the morning.1 Therefore healthy breakfasts that steadily increase glucose levels are extremely beneficial for cognitive performance in children.
  • A recent research review of studies on the effects of fasting vs breakfast on cognition in children and adolescents confirms that breakfast consumption has immediate (within 4 hours of ingestion) positive effects on cognitive functions such as attention and memory.2
  • A recent study reported that cognitive performance of adolescents (11-13 year old) was enhanced after eating breakfast as compared to breakfast skippers. Skills that improved with regular breakfast consumption were verbal fluency, arithmetic, tests of attention, memory, creativity and cognitive functioning. The authors also stressed on the need for educating the parents, teachers and the school community about the importance of regular habits of breakfast eating as adolescents spend majority of their time in the school.3
  • Likewise, studies in adults also document a robust advantage for memory after consuming a healthy breakfast. This maybe because regions of the brain that control memory are more affected by a lowering of blood glucose that occurs after an overnight fast.4
  • The benefits of breakfast in improving the performance in cognitive tasks translates into better academic achievement. Lui et al, 2013 showed that children who regularly have breakfast on a near-daily basis had significantly higher full scale, verbal and performance IQ test scores compared to children who ‘sometimes have breakfast’.5
  • Children who consumed breakfast had significantly higher scores in tests that assessed competencies in language (reading fluency, comprehension and spelling), mathetmatics, problem solving and science.1,6

Thus the regular consumption of a healthy breakfast is important for both enhanced cognitive performance as well as better academic achievement.

2. Breakfast can improve nutrient intakes

  • It is universally recognized that regular consumption of a healthy breakfast plays an important role in attaining optimal nutritional profile by promoting a healthier intake of macro and micronutrients. Breakfast cereals can give a head start to our body’s daily vitamin and mineral needs and overall nutrient intake.7
  • Recent studies have reported reduced intakes of many nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, zinc and dietary fibre in children and adolescents who skip breakfast.8,9
  • Among adults too there are definite dietary advantages of consuming breakfasts that include grains, cereals, low fat milk and whole fruits. Breakfast consumers had higher daily intakes of shortfall nutrients such as dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, potassium, folate, iron and magnesium. They also scored higher on the Health Eating Index scores than the breakfast skippers.10

3. Breakfast-eaters tend to have healthier body weights

  • Several cross-sectional studies across the world have reported that children, adolescents and adults who skip breakfast have greater body weights, higher BMI and waist circumference, excess adiposity, and a greater prevalence of obesity.10,17,18,19
  • Although strong evidence for a causal role of breakfast skipping in obesity is currently lacking, regular breakfast eaters do have a better dietary quality. This along with the improved post-prandial glucose response, insulin sensitivity and satiety experienced after the consumption of a fibre-rich breakfast would explain the healthier body weight seen among the breakfast-eaters.17

4. Breakfast improves metabolism

Breakfast intake improves several parameters associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, Diabetes and promotes overall metabolic health. Regular breakfast consumption has many benefits:

  • Reduced risk for developing abdominal obesity, obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and type II diabetes.11,12
  • Lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol.13
  • Decreased risk for stroke.14
  • Improved insulin sensitivity and higher glucose tolerance throughout the day after consuming breakfast foods high in whole grains and cereal fibre.15
  • According to the results from The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): 1999-2006 consumption of breakfast, especially one that included an RTEC, was associated with an improved cardiometabolic risk profile in U.S. young adults.20
  • According to a recent study, regular breakfast consumption was associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness in adolescents, and with a healthier cardiorespiratory fitness in adolescents and with a healthier cardiovascular profile especially one in males. Also it may probably help to negate the effect of excess adiposity on TC and LDL-C, especially in male adolescents.21
  • Consumption of breakfast cereals in general and those which are sources of soluble fibre is linked with reduced risk of diabetes; better cardiovascular lipid profiles (especially lower TC and LDL-C).22

5. Breakfast consumption promotes physical and mental well-being

  • Children and adolescents who consume breakfast daily were found to be more physically active and therefore having less screen time. They also had less likelihood of adverse behaviors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking.8,16
  • Eating breakfast together as a family has shown to confer several health benefits for the adolescents in terms of their dietary intake and weight status.23

Hence, taking as little as five minutes to relax and prepare for the day with a bowl of cereal, milk and fruit really ensures a positive start.

1 Ptomey etal L.T. (2016) Breakfast Intake and Composition is Associated with Superior Academic Achievement in Elementary School Children. J Am Coll Nutr. May-Jun;34(4):326-333.

2 Adolphus K.etal (2016) The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Adv Nutr. May;7(3):590S-612S.

3 Adole A.A. & Ware M.B. (2014) Assessment of breakfast eating habits and its association with cognitive performance of early adolescents (11-13 years) in Shebedino District, Sidama Zone, Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences 2(4):130-137.

4 Galioto R. & Spitznagel M.B. (2016) The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Adults. Adv Nutr. May;7(3):576S-589S

5 Liu J. etal (2013) Regular breakfast consumption is associated with increased IQ in kindergarten children. Early Hum Dev 89(4) 257-262.

6 Littlecot H.J. etal (2016) Association between breakfast consumption and educational outcomes in 9-11-year-old children. Public Health Nutr. Jun; 19(9):1575-1582.

7 Williams P.G. (2014) The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base. Adv Nutr. Sep;5(5): 636S-673S.

8 Barr S.I. etal (2014) Breakfast consumption is positively associated with nutrient adequacy in Canadian children and adolescents. Br J Nutr. 2014 Oct28;112(8): 1373-1383.

9 Moore F.F. etal (2016) Impact of Breakfast Skipping and Breakfast Choice on the Nutrient Intake and Body Mass Index of Australian Children. Nutrients. Aug;8 (8):487.

10 O’Neal C.E. etal (2014) Nutrient intake, diet quality, and weight/adiposity parameters in breakfast patterns compared with no breakfast in adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2008. J Acad Nutr Diet. Dec;114(12 Suppl):S27-43

17 Tee E.S. etal (2018) Breakfast consumption among Malaysian primary and secondary school children and relationship with body weight status – Findings from the MyBreakfastStudy. Asia Pac K Clin Nutr. 27(2):421-432.

18 Blondin SA (2016) Breakfast consumption and adiposity among children and adolescents: an updated review of the literature. Pediatr Obes. Oct;11(5):333-48.

19 Sakurai M (2017) Skipping breakfast and 5-year changes in body mass index and waist circumference in Japanese men and women. Obes Sci Pract. Jun;3(2):162-170.

11 Odegaard etal A.O. (2013) Breakfast Frequency and Development of Metabolic Risk. Diabetes Care. Oct; 36(10):3100-3106.

12 Uemura M. etal (2015) Breakfast Skipping is Positively Associated with Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Evidence from the Aichi Workers’ Cohort Study. J Epidemiol. 25(5):351-358.

13 Shafiee al (2013) Association of breakfast intake with cardiometabolic risk factors. Jornal de Pediatria, Volume 89, Issue 6, November-December Pages 575-582

14 Kubota Y.etal (2016) Association of Breakfast Intake with Incident Stroke and Coronary Heart Disease- The Japan Public Health Center-Based Study. Stroke, 47:477-481.

15 Maki K. C. etal (2016) The Effects of Breakfast Consumption and Composition on Metabolic Wellness with a Focus on Carbohydrate Metabolism. Adv Nutr. May; 7(3):613S-621S

20 Deshmukh-Tasker: et al. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumed with overweight/obesity, abdominal obesity, other cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in young adults. The national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): 1999-2006. Public Health Nutr. 2013;16(11):2073-82.

21 Hallstrom, L et al. Breakfast consumption and CVD risk factors in European adolescents: The HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study. Public Health Nutrition, ISSN1368-9800, E-ISSN 1475-2727, Vol. 16, no7, p.1296-1305.

22 Williams PG. The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base. Adv. Nutri. 2014;5:6365-6735.

16 Wang M. etal (2016) Breakfast Consumption and Its Associations with Health-Related Behaviors among School-Aged Adolescents: A Cross-Sectional Study in Zhejiang Province, China. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Aug;13(8):761.

23 Larson N, et al. Eating breakfast and dinner together as a family: associations with sociodemographic and implications for diet quality and weight status. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(12):1601-9.

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