PhotoSwedish university researchers have reported that teenagers with poor breakfast-eating habits are 68 percent more likely to become adults who suffer from metabolic syndrome.

Clinical Endocrinology Newsreported on Jan. 30 that Maria Wennberg and her colleagues at Umea University published their analysis of results from the Northern Swedish Cohort, a long-term 27-year study of over 1,000 individuals, starting when they were 16; they had additional medical exams and interviews when they were 18, 21, 30 and 43. The periodic examinations checked not just physical or biological factors, but also asked about the participants' lifestyle.

The 16-year-olds were asked what they ate for breakfast; some skipped breakfast altogether, some ate dessert-style breakfasts (such as cookies or sticky buns), and, as CEN put it: “The others reported consuming something that at least approached healthy: eggs, meat, or fish; milk products; cereal or dark bread; fruit or vegetables.”

Drastic difference

When these people reached age 43, they again submitted to a detailed medical exam and lifestyle interview. Results varied dramatically between the three types of breakfast-eaters: compared to those who ate healthy breakfasts in their teens, the breakfast-skippers or junk-food-eaters were more likely to use alcohol or tobacco, less likely to exercise, and more likely to suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and a variety of other problems.

The analysis controlled for variables including gender, then-current exercise and lifestyle habits, family medical history and others; even with all those factors weighed in, the former breakfast-skippers still proved more likely to suffer from adult metabolic syndrome in adulthood.

However, it's not known if the one factor causes the other, or if both are symptoms of the same cause. In other words, does going without breakfast make a teenager grow up to drink and smoke, or is it more that the kind of person who likes to smoke and drink in adulthood also happens to be the type who'd want to skip breakfast as a teen?

Regardless of which proves to be the case, the good news is that the study results indicate even middle-aged former breakfast-skippers who currently suffer from metabolic disorders can significantly improve their health by adopting a more healthy diet and lifestyle.

So it's still not too late for ex-teenage breakfast-skippers to get healthy -- though, presumably, it would be a lot easier to fix things now if they'd eaten better breakfasts over a quarter-century ago.

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