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The Power of Breakfast in Childhood!

The evidence is unequivocal: eating breakfast in childhood can help prevent a plethora of lifestyle diseases and can generally promote wellbeing.

Almost one in five children under the age between the ages of two to five are overweight in South Africa 1. The same proportion of children between the ages of 10 to 14 years, in the same study, never have breakfast 1.

A regular breakfast including oat-, barley-, or psyllium-based cereals is associated with a reduced risk of abnormal lipid profiles, high blood pressure or heart disease. Indeed, large systematic reviews showed that children who habitually eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight 2,3.

Other benefits include better blood glucose control, less insulin resistance and a reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes, even after adjusting for differences in BMI, socio-economic status and physical activity levels 4.

Eating a well-balanced breakfast can avoid overeating associated with discretionary nibbling in between meals, especially that of snacks that are high in sugar and/or fat 5.

The benefits of eating breakfast go beyond associated positive clinical outcomes, although these are obviously significant. Installing the breakfast habit in children can help establish other healthy lifestyle habits that can reduce the incidence of lifestyle diseases in the future. Children who eat breakfast are more likely to be fitter and to abstain from smoking, and less likely to drink alcohol or to have other unhealthy eating habits 6,7.

Take-home messages

  1. Obesity is an emerging problem in children in South Africa that needs intervention if the country is to turn the tide against non-communicable diseases (NCDs). 
  2. A significant percentage of children in South Africa never have breakfast.
  3. A habitual breakfast intake is associated with reduced likelihood of developing NCD risk factors.
  4. Over and beyond clinical outcomes, eating breakfast in childhood seems to instill other healthy lifestyle habits.
  5. To reduce the incidence of NCDs in South Africa, there’s a need to promote and increase access to breakfast in childhood.

REFERENCES:

  1. Shisana o, Labadarios D, Rehle T, et al.. The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey SANHANES-1. Cape Town: HSRC Press; 2013. http://www.hsrc.ac.za/uploads/pageNews/72/SANHANES-launch edition (online version).pdf. Accessed March 06 2017.
  2. De la Hunty A, Gibson S, Ashwell M. Does regular breakfast cereal consumption help children and adolescents stay slimmer? A Systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Facts. 2013;6(1):70-85. doi:10.1159/000348878.
  3. Szajewska H, Ruszczyński M. Systematic Review demonstrating that breakfast consumption influences body weight outcomes in children and adolescents in Europe. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010;50(2):113-119. doi:10.1080/10408390903467514.
  4. Donin AS, Nightingale CM, Owen CG, et al. Regular breakfast consumption and Type 2 Diabetes Risk markers in 9- to 10-year-old children in the Child Heart and Health Study in England (CHASE): A cross-sectional analysis. PLoS Med. 2014;11(9). doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001703.
  5. Pearson N, Biddle SJH, Gorely T. Family correlates of breakfast consumption among children and adolescents. A systematic review. Appetite. 2009;52(1):1-7. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2008.08.006.
  6. Kimbro R. Breakfast for Health. Food Res Action Cent. 2014:27-30.
  7. Keski-Rahkonen A, Kaprio J, Rissanen A, et al. Breakfast skipping and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents and adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57(7):842-853. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601618