The study published in the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics exclusively investigated the relationship with RTE cereal consumption, BMI and nutrient intake in minority kids (majority Hispanic) from low-income families.
With one in three American children considered clinically overweight or obese, childhood obesity in the US has reached “epidemic proportions,” the researchers wrote.
But these obesity levels are more common among minority children and children living in poverty, they added.
For children aged 6 to 11 years, the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity is 40% for Mexican-American, 36% for African-American, and 26% for non-Hispanic white children.
“The dietary intake of Hispanic children, who were the majority in this study, has been shown to be deficient in essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber and folate. RTEC may provide an important source for these nutrients,” the researchers wrote.
BMI drop, nutrient intake up
Findings showed that BMI was lowered over the three-year period in children who regularly consumed RTE cereals for breakfast.
Over the three-year period, data was compiled once a year – indicating what had been eaten over three days. In total, for each child the researchers had nine days of data to work with.
Findings showed that children who ate RTE cereal four out of these nine days were in the 95th BMI percentile (considered overweight) but those who ate cereal in all nine days recorded were in the 65th BMI percentile (considered a healthy weight range).
However, findings showed that sex, ethnicity, age and time had no effect.
The study also linked RTE cereal consumption with increased intakes of essential nutrients such as – vitamins D, B3, B12, riboflavin, calcium, iron, zinc and potassium. There was also a significant decrease in cholesterol intake with increased days of RTEC consumption.
“More days of RTEC consumption were related to increases in three of the four nutrients of concern – calcium, vitamin D and potassium,” researchers said. They said this likely related to the increased consumption of milk with the cereals.
A total of 625 schoolchildren (78% Hispanic) with a mean age of 9.13 years took part in the longitudinal dietary study over three years. Around 62% of the families resided in low-income households with the majority of parents having a high school education or less.
The most frequently consumed RTEC over the study period were Kellogg’s Frosted Cornflakes (27.4%), General Mills’ Cheerios (10.5%) and Kix (5.4%).
The control group was comprised of 706 children who most frequently consumed scrambled eggs (4.2%), white bread (3.6%), breakfast taco (3.1%), sausage (2.7%), biscuit (2.4%) and tortilla (1.7%).
“Because most of the Hispanic children were Mexican American, traditional Mexican foods such as tortillas and tacos were consumed for non-RTEC breakfast,” the researchers noted.
Data was compiled from three 24-hour diet recalls over consecutive days – at the beginning of the fourth-grade school year, end of fifth-grade school year, and end of sixth-grade school year. The information was collected in a one-on-one interview with trained interviewers and height and weight to calculate BMI was recorded.
The research was funded by The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases/National Institutes of Health.
Researchers acknowledged limitations in the study, including possible recall bias from self-reported dietary information. They also said that because it was a three-year study focused on a minority population, the results could not determine a long-term trend or be representative of the US population.
Source: Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
April 2013, Vol. 113, No. 4, Pages 511-519. Doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.01.006
“Association between Frequency of Ready-to-Eat Cereal Consumption, Nutrient Intakes, and Body Mass Index in Fourth- to Sixth-Grade Low-Income Minority Children”
Authors: LB. Frantzen, RP. Treviño, RM. Echon, O. Garcia-Dominic and N. DiMarco