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Most important meal of the day? Bad breakfast in youth linked to metabolic syndrome in adulthood

By Nathan GRAY , 31-Jan-2014
Last updated on 31-Jan-2014 at 13:10 GMT

"Poor breakfast habits at age 16 years predicted the metabolic syndrome at age 43 years," says research.

Consumption of a poor breakfast during youth and development may programme an adult life of increased risks of metabolic syndrome, according to new research.

It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and previous studies have suggested that regular breakfast consumption may improve metabolic parameters.  

Researchers from Sweden have released data from a 27-year follow up study investigating whether poor breakfast habits in adolescence can be predictive of metabolic syndrome and its components in later adulthood.

Writing in Public Health Nutrition the Swedish scientists revealed that adolescents who ate poor breakfasts were associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome later in life when compared with those who ate a more substantial breakfast.

"Poor breakfast habits at age 16 years predicted the metabolic syndrome at age 43 years, independently of early confounders (lifestyle, BMI and SES)," wrote the research team - led by Maria Wennberg from Umeå University in Sweden. "Of the metabolic syndrome components, poor breakfast habits at age 16 years predicted central obesity and high fasting glucose at age 43 years."

Based on their findings the team suggested that schools and other breakfast programmes should be re-evaluated with close attention paid to potential metabolic health consequences.

"Further studies are required for us to be able to understand the mechanisms involved in the connection between poor breakfast and metabolic syndrome, but our results and those of several previous studies suggest that a poor breakfast can have a negative effect on blood sugar regulation," added Wennberg.

Study details

The team initially recruited 1083 male and female teenagers, as part of the Northern Swedish Cohort.

The study asked all students completing year 9 of their schooling in Luleå in 1981 (Northern Swedish Cohort) to answer questions about what they ate for breakfast. 27 years later, the respondents underwent a health check where the presence of metabolic syndrome and its various subcomponents was investigated.

Results from their investigation revealed that the young people who neglected to eat breakfast or ate a poor breakfast had a 68% higher incidence of metabolic syndrome as adults when compared with those who had eaten more substantial breakfasts in their youth.

This conclusion remained after taking into account socioeconomic factors and other lifestyle habits of the adolescents in question, said the team - who noted that abdominal obesity and high levels of fasting blood glucose levels were the subcomponents which, at adult age, could be most clearly linked with poor breakfast in youth.

Source: Public Health Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1017/S1368980013003509  
"Poor breakfast habits in adolescence predict the metabolic syndrome in adulthood"
Authors: Maria Wennberg, Per E Gustafsson, et al

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