(RxWiki News) Children are constantly told that eating a healthy breakfast may help with weight control and academic performance. But it may also prevent type 2 diabetes.
Previous studies have shown an association between skipping breakfast and obesity in young people. Some research has found that children who do not eat the first meal of the day may increase their risk of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.
A new investigation found that young people who ate a healthy breakfast every day were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who skipped breakfast.
"Eat a healthy breakfast every day."
Angela Donin, PhD, with the Population Health Research Institute at St. George’s University of London, conducted the study with colleagues.
She and fellow researchers followed 4,116 children, ages 9 to 10, in the UK. The young participants answered questions about how often they ate breakfast. The choices were every day, most days, some days or not usually.
Just over 1 in 4 reported that they did not have breakfast every day. Six percent said they rarely ate breakfast.
To see whether the children had signs of type 2 diabetes, scientists collected blood samples. These were tested for diabetes risk markers. The markers included fasting insulin, glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c).
People with type 2 diabetes produce the hormone insulin, but their bodies don’t use it effectively. Insulin normally helps cells use blood sugar (glucose). With type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin.
The children in this study who usually skipped breakfast had 24.4 percent higher fasting insulin than those who always at breakfast. This indicated that their bodies needed higher levels of insulin to help glucose enter cells.
Breakfast skippers also had 26.7 percent higher insulin resistance. This meant their cells were not responding properly to insulin and easily absorbing glucose from the bloodstream.
Those who usually did not eat breakfast had slightly higher HbA1c levels (a measure of average blood sugar) and slightly higher glucose than those who reported always eating breakfast.
A total of 2,004 children also completed a survey detailing specifics about what they had eaten. Those who ate a high-fiber, cereal-based breakfast had lower insulin resistance than participants who ate other types of breakfast, such as low-fiber or toast-based breakfasts.
Deborah Gordon, MD, nutrition expert and operator of an integrative medical practice based in Ashland, OR, told dailyRx News, “The study aligns with what we generally know about the various diseases of the metabolic syndrome [obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease], namely that refined carbohydrates are the most powerful food group for aggravating risk and undermining health.”
Investigators from the study noted that, even after taking into account socioeconomic status, exercise levels and amount of body fat, children who ate breakfast regularly had a better type 2 diabetes risk profile.
“Though we don't know precisely which component of breakfast was important, our analyses particularly suggested that children who ate a breakfast which had a high fiber content had lower insulin resistance than children who ate a breakfast with low fiber content," Dr. Donin told dailyRx News. "On this basis, I would recommend eating a breakfast cereal with a high fiber content, which will also help to meet daily recommended requirements for fiber.”
The study was published Sept. 2 in PLOS Medicine.
The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.