Breakfast Means Leaner Teens
May 1, 2008—Concerns over body image and fitting in might lead some teens to skip meals in an attempt to lose weight. A new study in Pediatrics suggests that this approach could backfire, though; teens who miss out on breakfast are actually more likely to be overweight.
The new study, as part of Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), gathered information from 2,216 adolescents about their eating and exercise habits, as well as dieting and weight-control behaviors to see what effect eating breakfast had on weight changes over a five-year period.
Although teens who ate breakfast regularly took in more calories in a day than their breakfast-skipping counterparts, they were less likely to be overweight. Eating breakfast more frequently was associated with lower body mass index (a measure related to body weight) in a dose-response fashion—meaning that the more often teens ate breakfast, the lower their body mass index. Breakfast-eating teens were also more likely to be physically active. “Breakfast habits may be important markers of an overall healthful lifestyle pattern in youth and … frequent breakfast consumption may impart important weight gain prevention effects,” the authors concluded.
It may seem counterintuitive that eating more can lead to weight loss. A possible explanation could lie in the body’s fat receptors. With extreme caloric restriction, the body makes more receptors on fat cells, causing them to gobble up any available fat when it’s eaten. People who eat more regularly and include healthy amounts of fat in the diet have less fat receptors on their cells; these people are likely to be thinner than “fad dieters.” Eating breakfast regularly can help keep fat receptors in check, leading to healthier weight. Breakfast eaters might also be thinner than teens who skip meals because the quality of their diet and their attitudes toward food might be better.
Results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that about 17% of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 are overweight. Being overweight can lead to health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and the development of certain cancers. As more people are becoming overweight earlier in life, the incidence of these diseases is rising in the younger population.
According to the authors, “More emphasis should be placed on breakfast habits, especially among adolescents and young adults, when behavioral patterns are developing and stabilizing.”
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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