Assessing the diet of over 2000 girls during a ten year period, researchers at Maryland Medical Research Institute in the US conclude that eating cereal as the first meal of the day could help adolescent girls maintain a healthy body mass index and adequate nutrient intake.
"As the girls moved through their teen years, their cereal consumption predicted a lower BMI regardless of their age," said the researchers.
They used data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth Health study which tracked breakfast and cereal consumption of more than 2,300 girls from the age of nine or 10 years old.
Further, the researchers also found cereal consumption had "positive effects on the girls' nutrient intake", particularly in higher levels of calcium and fibre, and lower levels of fat and cholesterol.
Although they warned that other factors related to cereal consumption may have an impact on girls' diets. For example, other healthful foods are usually eaten with cereal such as milk and juice, plus the fact that the cereal may replace other less nutritious food choices.
Health-promoting cereal foods and ingredients are in vogue, with food makers injecting funds into developing new products that take advantage of the trend.
Most recently, the EU announced it would co-ordinate a five-year project involving 43 partners from 15 European countries to identify new sources of nutritionally enhanced grain, as well as develop methods to make cereal products more appealing to consumers.
The €16m Healthgrain Integrated project, will build on results from recent studies that have revealed how wholegrain foods can have a protective effect against heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The ultimate aim is to increase the average European citizen's intake of protective wholegrains.
Participants will examine the variation, process-induced changes and human metabolism of bioactive compounds in wheat and rye, the two major European bread grains. Target bioactive compounds are vitamins (including folate, tocols and choline), phytochemicals (lignans, sterols, alkylresorcinols and phenolic acids) and indigestible carbohydrates.
The study will also establish how cereal foods' glycaemic properties reduce risk factors for diabetes.
Full findings for the US study are published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.