Skipping breakfast may increase the likelihood that children and adolescents will develop psychosocial health problems

A recent study published in Frontiers in Nutrition indicates that the psychosocial health of young people who consume healthy breakfasts at home is better. While previous research has demonstrated the importance of a healthy breakfast, this is the first study to examine the reported effects of whether or not children consume breakfast, as well as where and what they consume. These findings offer valuable insights and suggestions for parents and children.

The first author of the study, Dr. José Francisco López-Gil of the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Cuenca, Spain, stated, “Our findings suggest that it is not only important for young people to eat breakfast, but also where and what they eat.” “Children and adolescents who skip breakfast or consume breakfast away from home are at increased risk for psychosocial and behavioural problems. Similarly, certain foods/drinks are associated with increased (e.g., processed meat) or decreased (e.g., dairy products, cereals) odds of psychosocial behavioural problems.”

Breakfast matters

López-Gil and his colleagues analysed data from the 2017 Spanish National Health Survey for this study. This survey included questionnaires regarding children’s breakfast habits and psychosocial health, which included self-esteem, mood, and anxiety. The questionnaires were filled out by the parents or guardians of the children, and the results included 3,772 Spanish residents between the ages of four and fourteen.

Among the most significant findings, López-Gil and his team discovered that eating breakfast away from home was nearly as harmful as skipping the meal altogether. This may be due to the fact that meals eaten away from home are frequently less nutritious than those prepared at home, according to the authors.

Coffee, milk, tea, chocolate, cocoa, yoghurt, bread, toast, cereals, and pastries were all associated with a reduced likelihood of behavioural issues, according to the findings. Surprisingly, eggs, cheese, and ham were associated with increased risks of these conditions.

Although the scope of this study is limited to Spain, the results are consistent with those of other studies. In some locations, the availability of nutritious breakfasts at schools would likely affect the results.

However, other factors, such as the social and familial support young people can receive during breakfast at home, may also contribute to the observed benefits. The authors emphasise the need for additional research to understand the cause-and-effect relationships underlying their observations, but they nonetheless suggest the utility of these findings.

“It is a novel aspect of our study that eating breakfast away from home is associated with greater psychosocial health problems,” said López-Gil. “Our findings reinforce the necessity of promoting breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle routine, as well as the importance of eating breakfast at home. Moreover, to prevent psychosocial health issues, a breakfast that includes dairy and/or cereals and minimises certain animal foods high in saturated fat/cholesterol could aid in reducing psychosocial health issues among adolescents.”

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