Eating breakfast builds healthy bones, say studies

Related tags Breakfast Nutrition

The American Dietetic Association is seeking to stir up debate over
the nation's breakfast tables. Girls who skip breakfast are more
likely to miss out on dietary sources of calcium and fiber than
those who regularly eat the first meal of the day, according to a
study in the June issue of its journal.

Researchers studied the food records of 2379 girls who participated in the nine-year bi-racial Growth Health Study, carried out by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The girls were aged nine or ten years when they were enrolled in the study.

Breakfast consumption was seen to decrease considerably as the girls grew older, and African-Americans were more likely to miss the meal than their white counterparts.

At nine years, 77 percent of white girls and 57 percent of African-American girls ate breakfast, but by the age of 19 these percentages had dropped to 32 and 22 respectively.

Even the early curve of this trend is cause for concern in the light of research published earlier this year, which suggested that prevention of osteoporosis, a disease usually associated with elderly women, should begin in pre-adolescence.

"Because most bone mass is accumulated during this phase of growth, pre-adolescence may represent the time of highest need for calcium in a female's lifetime,"​ said Velimir Matkovic, lead author of the study published in January's issues of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ and the Journal of Nutrition​.

In what was the first clinical trial tracking the effects of calcium on bone density in girls aged eight to 13 for as long as seven years, Matkovik found that calcium supplementation significantly increased bone mass development during a critical childhood growth spurt.

After the onset of menstruation, calcium supplementation's effects on bone density decreased.

Beyond calcium, a third study, conducted at the Children's Nutrition Research Center and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health last year, indicated that breakfast-eaters also receive the benefits of other vitamins and minerals such as zinc, as well as proteins and carbohydrates. Teenagers who choose not to eat breakfast generally fail to make up the lost vitamins and minerals through other meals, said the researchers.

The latest study is not the first time the American Dietetic Association​ has taken America to task over its young people's breakfast habits. Last month its journal contained a review of 47 articles investigating links between breakfast, nutrition, body weight and academic or cognitive function.

Although individual study results were inconsistent, overall it found that breakfast consumption may be associated with more healthful body weights in children and adolescents; that skipping breakfast is common in overweight or obese children, and may be related to dieting or eating disorders; that those who don't eat breakfast are less likely to engage in physical activity, resulting in positive energy balance and weight gain; and that breakfast consumption may positively affect cognitive function.

Although many ready-to-eat cereals (which are often served with milk) are fortified with vitamins and minerals, most of the studies examined did not make it clear whether they are responsible for the overall observed benefits of eating breakfast.

Moreover ready-to-eat cereals - especially those aimed at children - tend to contain more sugar and refined grains.

"To maximize the potential benefits of breakfast consumption, it is important to distinguish between simply promoting breakfast vs the consumption of a healthful breakfast,"​ wrote the review authors.

"Breakfast should include a variety of healthful foods that are high in nutritive value yet do not provide excess energy."

Related topics Ingredients Health

Related news