A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition Children has suggested that children who skip breakfast regularly may not be consuming the daily amounts of key nutrients that are recommended by the UK government.
Led by King’s College London and conducted with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the study showed that children who ate breakfast every day were deemed to have overall superior nutritional profiles compared to those who didn’t. These children were found to have higher daily intakes of key nutrients such as folate (important for the development of genetic material), calcium, iron and iodine (key in the development of thyroid function) than children who skipped breakfast.
The research team used food diaries collected for the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling programme between 2008 and 2012 from a group of 802 children aged 4 – 10 years and 884 children aged 11 – 18 years. Nutrient intake was assessed using a food composition databank from the Department of Health. Breakfast was considered as consumption of over 100 calories between 6am and 9am.
Key findings of the study include:
· 31.5% of those who skipped breakfast did not meet even the lower recommended nutrient intake (LRNI) of iron compared to only 4.4% of breakfast consuming children
· 19% did not meet LRNI for calcium, compared to 2.9% of breakfast consuming children
· 21.5% did not meet lower levels for iodine, compared to 3.3% of breakfast consuming children
· No children who consumed breakfast daily had a folate intake below their LRNI compared to 7.3% of those who skipped breakfast
The study also compared breakfast habits and nutrients within individual participants. This analysis showed that on days when breakfast was consumed, younger children (4-10 years old) had higher intakes of folate, calcium, vitamin C and iodine compared to their breakfast-skipping days. Out of these same nutrients, for older children (11-18 years old) only calcium intakes were higher on breakfast-consuming days.
Authors have attributed these findings to higher levels of parental control over eating habits at a young age. There is also the possibility of mis-reporting in food diaries, particularly in older children who reported their own intakes. Some analyses were repeated to omit implausible levels of energy intake where possible.
The study also showed that only 6.5% of 4 – 10 year olds missed breakfast every day, compared with nearly 27% of 11- 18 year olds. Data also suggested that girls were more likely to miss breakfast than boys and household income was found to be higher in the families of children eating breakfast every day.
The published paper is available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/breakfast-consumption-and-nutrient-intakes-in-418yearolds-uk-national-diet-and-nutrition-survey-rolling-programme-20082012/745D1FB56963531AA0E6165D95BDC93F