Children who skip breakfast ‘may be doing themselves harm’

Former Church of Scotland Moderator Lorna Hood visits a school breakfast club in Denny. Picture: Gary Hutchison
Former Church of Scotland Moderator Lorna Hood visits a school breakfast club in Denny. Picture: Gary Hutchison
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Children who skip breakfast may be doing themselves long term harm by not getting enough nutrients, new research has warned.

The findings show that youngsters who often skip the first meal of the day may not be consuming the daily amounts of key nutrients for growth and development recommended by Government guidelines.

British kids who ate breakfast every day were deemed to have ‘overall superior nutritional profiles’ compared to those who didn’t.

The eaters 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 to the development of thyroid function, than children who skipped breakfast.

The study also showed that only 6.5 per cent of four to 10-year-olds missed breakfast every day, compared with more than a quarter of 11 to 18-year-olds (27 per cent).

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The findings also suggested that girls were more likely to miss breakfast than boys while household income was found to be higher in the families of children eating breakfast every day.

The researchers from King’s College London used food diaries collected for the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling programme between 2008 and 2012 from a group of 802 children aged from four to 10 and 884 children aged 11 to 18.

Nutrient intake was assessed using a food composition databank from the Department of Health.

Breakfast was considered as consumption of more than 100 calories between 6am and 9am.

The findings also showed that almost a third of those who skipped breakfast (31.5 per cent) didn’t meet even the lower recommended nutrient intake (LRNI) of iron, compared to only 4.4 per cent of children who ate breakfast.

A fifth of non-breakfast eating kids (19 per cent) didn’t meet LRNI for calcium, compared to 2.9 per cent of those who had breakfast, while 21.5 per cent didn’t meet lower levels for iodine, compared to 3.3 per cent of those who ate breakfast.

None of the children who ate breakfast daily had a folate intake below their LRNI, compared to 7.3 per cent of those who skipped breakfast.

The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition and conducted with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, also compared breakfast habits and nutrients within individual participants.

The analysis showed that, in children aged four to 10-years-old, on days when breakfast was consumed, children had higher intakes of folate, calcium, vitamin C and iodine compared to their breakfast-skipping days.

Out of these same nutrients, for older children aged 11 to 18 only calcium intakes were higher on breakfast-consuming days.

The researchers attributed the findings to higher levels of parental control over eating habits at a young age.

They said there is also the possibility of mis-reporting in food diaries, particularly in older children who reported their own intakes.

Study senior author Dr Gerda Pot, lecturer in Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London said: “This study provides evidence that breakfast is key for parents to ensure that their children are getting the nutrition they need.”

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She added: “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.”