Regular breakfasts help children meet key nutrient intake targets: Study

By Tim Cutcliffe

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Nutrition Uk

Children who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to meet recommended nutrient intake (RNI) and lower RNI levels of key nutrients, reports a study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

 Data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) Rolling Programme revealed that as frequency of breakfast consumption increased, so did the proportion of children meeting RNI for each of the key micronutrients folate, vitamin C, calcium, iron and iodine.

“We observed that the overall nutritional profile of the children in terms of fibre and micronutrient intake was superior in frequent breakfast consumers,” ​wrote the research team, from King’s College London in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The likelihood of failure to meet lower RNI of some nutrients was substantially higher in breakfast skippers than regular consumers: 31.5% versus 4.4% for iron, 19% versus 2.9% for calcium, and 21.5% versus 3.3% for iodine.

“Few UK studies have investigated differences in nutrient intakes between breakfast consumers and breakfast skippers among children and adolescents,”​ observed the researchers.

“This study provides evidence that breakfast is key for parents to ensure that their children are getting the nutrition they need,”​ commented senior author Dr Gerda Pot.

Study Details

NDNS data was collected between 2008-2012 using food diaries from a group of 802 children aged 4-10 and 884 children aged 11-18. Nutrient intake was calculated using the Department of Health’s NDNS Nutrient Intake Databank.

Breakfast consumption was defined as the intake of at least 100 calories between 6.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m.

Other findings

No evidence was found to support the frequently quoted hypothesis that skipping breakfast leads to compensatory overeating later in the day.

Within-person analysis showed that 4-10 year-olds, but not 11-18 year-olds had higher intakes of fibre, folate, vitamin C and iodine on days they ate breakfast. The researchers suggested this might be due to greater parental supervision of the younger group, leading to higher consumption of fortified cereals, milk and fruit juice in the 4-10 year-olds.

Younger children were also less likely to miss breakfast every day (6.5%), compared with the elder group (27%). However, given the cut-off time of 9.00 a.m., late breakfast consumption by teenagers would not have been included in the data.

Household incomes were higher in families of children who consumed breakfast every day, while girls were more likely to skip breakfast than boys.

Finally, no difference was seen in the proportion of overweight or obese children in the different breakfast habit categories. This finding is at odds with some earlier studies, which suggested a link between breakfast skipping and obesity.


“Our study adds to the body of data linking breakfast consumption with higher quality dietary intake in school-age children, supporting the promotion of breakfast as an important element of a healthy dietary pattern in children,” ​stated the researchers.

“Further studies that investigate specific foods and dietary quality would help to identify if the differences are due to the different types of breakfast being eaten by different age groups, as well as provide more insight into the impact of breakfast on dietary quality overall,”​ commented Pot.

“In conclusion, the connection between the consumption of breakfast and good health appears to involve many different factors, and is still some way from being fully elucidated. A causal link with obesity is, as yet, unsupported by the available evidence,” ​the team added.

Source:   British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1017/S0007114517001714
“Breakfast consumption and nutrient intakes in 4–18-year-olds: UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme (2008–2012)”
Authors: Janine D. Coulthard, Luigi Palla and Gerda K. Pot

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