For reasons we have explored previously on The PediaBlog, most (60%) teenagers do not eat breakfast before school most mornings, even when they can buy it at school. For children, skipping breakfast is an unforced error:
You’ve heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For your children, it gets their “motors” (and their bowels) going and provides energy for their bodies and brains to perform well in school.
Not only does eating breakfast decrease the risk of childhood overweight and obesity — and metabolic syndrome which results — but a recent study, published last month in Pediatric Obesity, finds that while one breakfast is better than none, two breakfasts are even better! Tracie McMillan thinks these results could bolster public support for school breakfast programs around the country:
Researchers tracked nearly 600 middle-school students from fifth to seventh grade, looking to see if students ate no breakfast; ate breakfast at home or school; or ate both — and whether that affected obesity rates. The result: Weight gain among students who ate “double-breakfast” was no different than that seen among all other students. Meanwhile, the risk of obesity doubled among students who skipped breakfast or ate it inconsistently.
“It seems it’s a bigger problem to have kids skipping breakfast than to have these kids eating two breakfasts,” says Marlene Schwartz of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and one of the study’s authors.
McMillan ponders the paradox of teenagers eating a double breakfast (an additional 95 calories per day according to a prior study) and having a lower risk of obesity:
Researchers of the new study didn’t examine why eating double breakfasts did not affect obesity, but skipping the meal did. But Schwartz has a few hypotheses. First, school breakfast is fairly healthful; “they weren’t eating doughnuts or Denny’s Grand Slam,” she says.
Second, kids who skip breakfast — a habit that doubled in frequency between grades 5 and 7, according to the study — are likely to overeat later in the day. And, of course, just the fact that growing adolescents often need a lot of food to grow means that they can eat more without necessarily gaining weight.