Cereal eaters were found to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and a higher nutrient intake than infrequent or non-cereal eaters.
Previous research has shown that adults who eat cereal for breakfast tend to consume more fibre and calcium and less fat than people who choose other foods for breakfast.
The study, which included 603 children aged four to12 years, examined the relationship between cereal consumption habits and BMI of school-aged children. Although cereal is a prevalent food in the diet of children, especially at breakfast, little or no research has been previously conducted to ascertain the relationship between consumption patterns and childhood obesity.
Results of the study concluded that children who consumed eight or more servings of cereal within a period of two weeks had significantly lower BMIs compared to the children who consumed fewer servings during that same time. Statistically, nearly 80 per cent of the children who frequently consumed cereal boasted an appropriate body weight for their age and gender.
"For an average 10-year-old boy, the decision to eat cereal or not can equate to about a 12-pound difference," said G Harvey Anderson, the co-author of the study and a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto.
The authors also found that cereal consumption benefited the children in the study who were at risk of being overweight. According to the US' Center for Disease and Control, the proportion of children aged 4-12 who are at risk of being overweight is 33.67 per cent or roughly one in three. However, children in the study of this age group who ate cereal, lowered their risk to 21.3 per cent or nearly one in five.
In the United States, close to one in three children are either at risk for being overweight, or are overweight. This tendency is also rising in Europe, with a recent report estimating that one in 10 six-year-olds in the UK is obese.