Teens' Bad Breakfast Habits Linked to Future Health

Metabolic syndrome risk in adulthood was higher in teens who had poor breakfast habits

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. New research may add more support to that claim, especially when it comes to teens.

A recent study found that people who had poor breakfast habits as teens had an increased risk of having metabolic syndrome as adults.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase a person’s risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers noted that creating school breakfast programs could offer a potential solution to this problem.

"Make sure your teen gets a healthy breakfast every day."

This study was led by Maria Wennberg, PhD, in the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine, Umea University in Sweden. The research team examined the relationship between poor breakfast habits in adolescence and metabolic syndrome in adulthood.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including a large waistline, high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, that can increase a person’s risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

For this study, Dr. Wennberg and colleagues analyzed data from 889 participants in the Northern Swedish Cohort at the age of 16 and from the same participants at the age of 43.

At age 16, these participants were asked what they had for breakfast, with possible response options including drinks, milk products, egg/meat/fish, fruit/vegetables, porridge/cereals, dark bread, white/sweet bread and other.

The participants were considered to have poor breakfast habits if they reported not having anything for breakfast, only having something to drink or only eating something sweet like a cookie or biscuit.

Physical exams were performed when participants were 16, 21 and 43 years old, with a more comprehensive physical exam occurring at age 43.

Waistline size was measured and blood samples were collected to determine HDL cholesterol (good type of cholesterol), triacylglycerol levels (a type of fat found in the blood) and blood sugar levels.

Participants were considered to have metabolic syndrome if they had a waistline of at least 80 centimeters (about 31 inches) or greater for women and at least 94 centimeters (about 37 inches) or greater for men. They also had to have at least two of the following conditions: increased triacylglycerol levels, lower HDL levels, increased blood pressure and increased blood sugar levels or diagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Several factors were taken into account that could have influenced the development of metabolic syndrome, including sex, a family history of diabetes, socioeconomic status, alcohol consumption, smoking status and physical activity.

The researchers found that about 10 percent of the study group had poor breakfast habits when they were 16 years old and 27 percent had metabolic syndrome at age 43.

Participants who had poor breakfast habits at 16 had a 68 percent greater risk of having metabolic syndrome at age 43 than participants who did not have poor breakfast habits.

The researchers also found that participants with poor breakfast habits were 71 percent more likely to have large waistlines and 75 percent more likely to have high blood sugar than participants who did not have poor breakfast habits.

The authors of this study noted that their findings support the view that having poor breakfast habits is a part of an unhealthy lifestyle. They also noted that school breakfast programs could serve as a way to address this problem.

These authors concluded that existing school breakfast programs should be evaluated to determine their effects on metabolic health.

This study was published on January 29 in Public Health Nutrition.

The study's authors reported no competing interests.

Review Date: 
January 30, 2014
Last Updated:
January 31, 2014