Scientists have backed the claims of cereal makers who promote their goods as a healthy start to the day.
In a new study, people who ate ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast were found to have significantly lower body mass indices (BMI) than those who skipped breakfast or ate meat and eggs in the morning.
Nutritionists generally maintain that eating breakfast improves metabolism and helps weight control because people are less likely to compensate for a missed meal later in the day. The new study, funded by cereal maker Kellogg, looked at type of breakfast consumed, using data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a large population-based study carried out in the US from 1988-1994.
The subjects were classified as 'Skippers', 'Meat/eggs', 'Ready-to-eat cereal (RTEC)', 'Cooked cereal', 'Breads', 'Quick Breads' (such as muffins and sweet breads made without yeast), 'Fruits/vegetables', 'Dairy', 'Fats/sweets', and 'Beverages'. Researchers compared diet to body mass index, which measures weight against height and is used as a tool to assess obesity.
Those who ate RTEC, Cooked cereal, or Quick Breads for breakfast had significantly lower body mass index compared to Skippers and Meat and Egg eaters. Breakfast skippers and fruit/vegetable eaters had the lowest daily energy intake. The Meat and Eggs eaters had the highest daily energy intake and one of the highest BMIs.
The team from the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that skipping breakfast did not help to manage weight. "Eating cereal (ready-to-eat or cooked cereal) or quick breads for breakfast is associated with significantly lower body mass index compared to skipping breakfast or eating meats and/or eggs for breakfast," they write in this month's Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Similar findings are reported by Finnish researchers in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation this month. The team found that teenagers who missed breakfast tended to be fatter, possibly because they were more likely to have unhealthy snacks mid-morning to boost their energy levels. But they were also more likely to smoke more, drink more alcohol and take less exercise than those who make time for the meal.