Skipping Breakfast Promotes Belly Fat in Kids?

Skipping breakfast is perhaps the single most prevalent nutrition problem, even in people who are otherwise concerned about eating a healthy and balanced diet.

I’ve blogged before about the many problems resulting from skipping breakfast (and other meals) and have always strongly propagated the importance of at least replacing the meals you would otherwise skip to prevent homeostatic hyperphagia.

Here is now a new publication on this topic by Katherine Alexander and colleagues from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA, published in this month’s issue of OBESITY.

In this study, Alexander and colleagues assessed dietary intake, body composition (DEXA), visceral fat (MRI) and insulin resistance (FSIVGT) in 93 overweight Latino youth (10-17 years) with a positive family history of type 2 diabetes.

Compared to regular or even occasional breakfast eaters, consistent breakfast skippers (n=20) had significantly more intra-abdominal adipose tissue. This was despite lack of difference in BMI or other measures of adiposity or body composition. Unfortunately, the study did not report on levels of physical activity, an important confounder in any study on visceral fat.

As discussed in the article, the importance of eating breakfast has been documented in numerous other studies:

Breakfast has been identified as the most commonly missed meal for adolescents. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that 20% of adolescents skipped breakfast the previous day. Adolescents who habitually eat breakfast have been shown to have a lower BMI compared with adolescents who frequently skip breakfast. Cross-sectional research has shown that adolescents who consume breakfast regularly have a lower BMI compared with those who frequently skip breakfast . A recent review of literature also found that adolescents and children who ate breakfast generally consumed more daily calories yet were less likely to be overweight. A high BMI was also significantly associated with breakfast skipping in a study of 16-year-old girls and boys in Finland. In addition, a study of 6- to 19-year-old children and adolescents found that overweight females were more likely to omit breakfast.

Clearly enough data to convince me that promoting regular healthy breakfasts in kids may well be a key step in preventing obesity in kids and adolescents (although I have yet to see a randomised controlled intervention trial on this).

As an adult physician, I can only confirm that skipping breakfast is one of the most common and easily remedial nutrition problems in people presenting in our obesity clinic. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast (or at least an adequate meal replacement) should be the first rule of a proper diet.

Edmonton, Alberta