Risk of obesity increases when teens skip breakfast

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Researchers suggest not to mess with the most important meal of the day

For many consumers, breakfast is hit or miss. Some don’t have the time to commit to a meal in the morning hours, while others choose to wait until lunch -- but a new study could have some people re-thinking their breakfast habits. 

According to researchers from the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, young people who skip breakfast could be increasing their risk of developing obesity. 

“We found that skipping breakfast is associated with adiposity markers in adolescents regardless of where they live and how much sleep they get, or whether they’re male or female,” said researcher Elsie Costa de Oliveira Forkert. 

“By skipping breakfast, millions of children and adolescents around the world are probably replacing a more healthy homemade meal including dairy products, whole-grain cereal, and fruit with fast food at a venue on the way to school, or at the school itself.” 

How breakfast helps

The researchers utilized two surveys, one conducted in Brazil and the other conducted in Europe, to understand how skipping breakfast affected adolescents’ likelihood of developing obesity and their overall energy levels. Combined, the two studies evaluated approximately 4,500 young people, ranging in age from 12 to 18. 

After charting the participants’ height, weight, and body mass index (BMI), the researchers distributed questionnaires that asked about eating habits, sleeping habits, and screen time. Of all the hobbies and habits the researchers looked at, skipping breakfast was the one that most highly correlated with a predisposition to obesity, regardless of any potential risk factors, gender, or average sleep time. 

However, because of the wide range of data explored in these two studies, Forkert and her team hope that parents of adolescents try to encourage their children to not only eat breakfast every morning, but also follow healthy lifestyles on a regular basis.

While breakfast was just one variable, too much time spent in front of screens, too little time spent engaging in physical activity, and a poor, unbalanced diet were also linked to greater risk of developing obesity. 

“The adolescents with more sedentary habits who spent more time watching television, using a computer, or playing video games probably had an unbalanced diet and consumed unhealthy food while watching television or playing,” said Forkert. “Sedentary behaviors associated with relatively high calorie consumption lead directly to obesity.” 

Can skipping meals be healthy?

Many recent studies have tackled the subject of intermittent fasting: a process where consumers either consume only 500-600 calories for two days out of the week or fast for 16 hours of the day and eat in the remaining eight hours. 

The process has been found to help consumers lose weight, and some evidence shows that it actually reduces the risk of diabetes and improves overall health

“What we are doing is time-restricted feeding,” said researcher Matthew McAllister. “It is a way to use fasting each day to promote various aspects of cardio-metabolic health.”

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