Study: Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of Your Life

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It turns out that mom was right about the importance of eating a good breakfast before heading off to school. Research published in Public Health Nutrition found that poor breakfast habits among adolescents predicted metabolic syndrome in adulthood, particularly high fasting glucose, and central obesity. Metabolic syndrome was 68 percent more likely in adults who ate poor breakfasts in their youth.

At the onset, the researchers explained that poor diet in adulthood had been linked to metabolic syndrome, but few studies had examined how choices made in adolescent years contributed to this. Metabolic syndrome describes a variety of risk factors — like central (or abdominal) obesity and hypertension — which increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The team went on to say that compared to non-breakfast eaters, when people regularly consume a meal first thing in the morning, the risk of metabolic conditions is lowered. 

A “poor breakfast” was defined as skipping the meal entirely, or only eating or drinking something sweet. A total of 88 respondents were deemed to eat a poor breakfast at age 16. Sixty-six skipped breakfast, 12 had a sweet drink, and 10 ate something sweet. The study did not attempt to define a “healthy” breakfast.

To evaluate the eating habits, a questionnaire was filled out by 16-year-olds in Luleå, Sweden in 1981. Follow-ups and health examinations were conducted at the ages of 18, 21, and 43. Retention was high throughout the 27 year study, with 94 percent of the baseline participating at age 43.

On the questionnaire, food items were broken into common breakfast groups (i.e. drinks, milk products, eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables, cereals, sweet bread), and respondents could also write in responses if what they ate did not correspond. When the participants were 43 years old, their waist circumference was measured, and blood samples were tested. To determine metabolic syndrome, the researchers used the International Diabetes Federation definition.

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