Reader Question: Growing up, my dad always said "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". Is that really true or not? - From Rebecca in Albany, NY
Rebecca, my dad told me the same thing, and it turns out he was right, according to new research. The science says it's not just an old saying, and that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, for children and adults.
Eating Breakfast Boosts Children's IQ Score
Improved overall dietary quality, and better concentration, attention, and memory.
In one of the first studies to examine IQ and breakfast consumption, Liu, along with Penn Nursing colleagues Barbra Dickerman and Charlene Compher, and Wei-Ting Hwang, an associate professor of biostatistics in the Perelman School of Medicine, examined data from 1,269 6-year-olds in China, and found that children who did not eat breakfast often had 5.58 points lower verbal, 2.5 points lower performance, and 4.6 points lower total IQ scores than children who regularly ate breakfast.
The researchers used information from Liu’s China Jintan Child Cohort Study, an ongoing prospective longitudinal analysis designed to assess the early health risk factors for the development of child neurobehavioral outcomes. Liu has been collecting data on children in the study—the oldest of whom are now 14—since they were 3 years old.
Liu, the lead author of the breakfast/IQ study, and colleagues collected information on children’s breakfast consumption habits by asking their parents how often their children eat breakfast in a typical week: “always,” “often,” “sometimes,” or “rarely.” Rice and noodles made up 69 percent of the breakfast meal.
When the children were in kindergarten, the researchers assessed their IQ using the Chinese version of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, a leading measure of cognitive ability for young children. Children who ate breakfast regularly had higher IQ scores, even when controlling for socio-demographic factors like a child’s gender, parental education, parental occupation, parental marital status, or whether a child resided in a city, suburb, or rural location.
“It does not matter what type of breakfast you eat,” Liu says. “As long as you eat breakfast, you have a better IQ.”
Liu says eating breakfast regularly had maximum benefit on the verbal IQ score. Breakfast provides an opportunity for young children to converse and interact with their parents, promoting cognitive and language development.
The key finding of the study suggests that breakfast consumption affects cognitive development in children. The researchers say that one possible explanation is that the overnight fast that occurs during sleep represents the longest period of fasting, and one important function of breakfast is to replenish low blood glucose levels. Glucose, Liu says, helps with overall brain function.
Eating breakfast consistently not only leads to a higher IQ score, but Liu says it also has long-term benefits on a person’s quality of life.
“If you eat breakfast regularly, you develop good habits, and it helps your long-term overall health,” she says. “Children who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to start other bad habits as teenagers, such as cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, and drug and alcohol abuse.”
Skipping Breakfast Raises Diabetes Risk
Overweight women who ate morning meal had lower blood sugar, better insulin response in study
Eating breakfast every day may help overweight women reduce their risk of diabetes, a new study suggests.
When women skipped the morning meal, they experienced insulin resistance, a condition in which a person requires more insulin to bring their blood sugar into a normal range, explained lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, an instructor of medicine at the University of Colorado.
This insulin resistance was short-term in the study, but when the condition is chronic, it is a risk factor for diabetes, Thomas said. She is due to present her findings this weekend at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco.
"Eating a healthy breakfast is probably beneficial," Thomas said. "It may not only help you control your weight but avoid diabetes."
Diabetes has been diagnosed in more than 18 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association. Most have type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not make enough insulin or does not use it effectively. Excess weight is a risk factor for diabetes.
The new study included nine women. Their average age was 29, and all were overweight or obese.
Thomas measured their levels of insulin and blood sugar on two different days after the women ate lunch. On one day, they had eaten breakfast; on the other day, they had skipped it.
Glucose levels normally rise after eating a meal, and that in turn triggers insulin production, which helps the cells take in the glucose and convert it to energy.
However, the women's insulin and glucose levels after lunch were much higher on the day they skipped breakfast than on the day they ate it.
On the day they did not eat breakfast, Thomas explained, "they required a higher level of insulin to handle the same meal."
"There was a 28 percent increase in the insulin response and a 12 percent increase in the glucose response after skipping breakfast," she said. That's a mild rise in glucose and a moderate rise in insulin, she noted.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Zonszein recommends against either skipping meals or eating very frequent meals, the so-called nibbling diet. "Studies done in Europe have shown that a large meal in the middle of the day is better than a large meal at dinner," he said.
However, he acknowledged that pattern is more of a habit in Europe than in the United States. Even so, he advises his patients to eat a good breakfast, a good lunch and a lighter dinner.
Sources: Elizabeth Thomas, M.D., instructor, medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora; Joel Zonszein, M.D, professor, clinical medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and director, Clinical Diabetes Center, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Ping Wang, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, University of California Irvine Health Diabetes Center; June 16, 2013, presentation, Endocrine Society annual meeting, San Francisco
Labels: Children's Health, New Research, Nutrition