Magically delicious: breakfast keeps teens lean

WASHINGTON Mon Mar 3, 2008 9:21am EST

A woman eats breakfast in a file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A woman eats breakfast in a file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Teenagers who regularly eat breakfast tend to weigh less, exercise more and eat a more healthful diet than their breakfast-skipping peers, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

The study involved 2,216 adolescents in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota whose eating patterns, weight and other lifestyle issues were tracked for five years. They were just under 15 years old when they entered the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics.

The more regularly the teens ate breakfast, the lower their body mass index was, according to the study. BMI is a measure of body weight relative to height. Those who always skipped breakfast on average weighed about 5 pounds (2.3 kg) more than their peers who ate the meal every day.

"What we found in the study was that kids who eat breakfast frequently, and especially every day, they're more healthy overall in terms of their lifestyle," Mark Pereira of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

"They're much more physically active and they have a better diet overall. So they have lower fat intake, lower cholesterol intake, higher fiber intake."

An estimated 25 percent of U.S. children regularly skip breakfast, the researchers said. This comes amid rising obesity rates among young people.

It may seem counterintuitive that people who regularly skip a meal are fatter than those who eat it all the time.

Pereira theorized that by filling their bellies in the morning, breakfast eaters may control their appetite better throughout the day. It might also prevent food binges at lunch or dinner, he added.

By touting the merits of breakfast, Pereira may not be encouraging young people to grab a chocolate-coated doughnut or dig into sugary cereal loaded with marshmallows.

"In general, there's lots of opportunities within the context of a breakfast meal to make healthy choices," he said.

"Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals can be high in sugar, but they also can be high in fiber and nutrients. And they can be consumed with low-fat milk and maybe some fruit or fruit juice. On the other hand, there's opportunities, just like there always is with every meal, to make poor choices."

(Editing by Julie Steenhuysen)

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