Waking up is hard to do and it is
especially difficult for people who'd probably like to avoid that time of day and
everything that comes with it --- even breakfast.
But as sure as the sun's gonna shine, breakfast will always be an important meal of the
day --- one that should be consumed by people of any age.
Although all three traditional meals play a significant role in supplying the daily
recommended levels of essential nutrients, nutritionist often cite breakfast as the day's
most important meal and the foundation of healthy eating habits.
Despite these recommendations, millions of people throughout the world routinely skip
breakfast. According to a 1987 report, one out of four women between the age of 25 and 34
regularly skip breakfast. Other studies show that eating habits developed during childhood
have a potential to last a lifetime. Thus, children who tend to omit breakfast most likely
will continue this dietary habit well into adulthood.
But a review of breakfast-related research over the last 30 years may make even the
tried-and-true breakfast skipper into a breakfast convert.
Studies have shown that eating breakfast is associated with improved strength and
endurance in the late morning, along with a better attitude toward school or work.
Breakfast help to replenish blood glucose levels, which is important since the brain
itself has no reserves of glucose, its main energy source, and constantly must be
Studies shows that sustained mental work requires large turnover of brain glucose and its
Researchers at the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School agree. They
examined whether eating breakfast has any advantageous effects on late morning mood,
satiety or cognitive performance.
- STUDY RESULTS
Participants were tested for cognitive performance 30 minutes after mealtime, and then two
hours and four hours later. Results confirmed that eating breakfast of either nutritional
composition was beneficial. Skipping breakfast consistently caused hunger and led to
performance difficulties on tasks requiring concentration.
"Eating breakfast of any kind prevented many of the adverse effects of fasting,"
such as irritability and fatigue, according to principal investigator, Bonnie Spring,
Ph.D. Spring added that those who ate the balanced breakfast scored significantly higher
on test than those who ate the unbalanced breakfast.
In terms of suppressing hunger, the balanced breakfast also was most effective. The
unbalanced breakfast suppressed hunger only relative to fasting; but four hours later,
those who ate the unbalanced breakfast were as hungry as those who fasted.
- SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAM
The potential role in breakfast in helping children perform at peak capacity in the
classroom was first documented more than 30 years ago at the University of Iowa Medical
College. Researchers found that children who skipped breakfast had trouble concentrating
at school and became inattentive and restless by late morning. These behavior problems
were linked to low blood sugar levels, which has never been replenished by a morning meal
and allowed fatigue, irritability and restlessness to develop. Such behaviors are
counter-productive to learning.
These and other findings helped confirm the hypothesis that children who go to school
hungry cannot perform well. To address this problem, congress enacted the school breakfast
as part of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.
Today, nearly 37,000 schools nationwide in the US offer the breakfast program, reaching a
total of 4 million children daily. The federal subsidy allows school to make breakfasts
that meet certain nutritional guidelines available to children on a reduced-cost basis or
free to those from low-income families.
In addition to improved cognitive functioning, breakfast has been shown to have other
benefits. A 1987 study of third to sixth grade Massachusetts school children found that
children participating in a school breakfast program had improved test scores as well as
reduced rates of tardiness and absenteeism.
How does the breakfast impact adults? Much of the breakfast research on adult has focused
on this meal's overall nutritional contribution to the daily diet.
- BREAKFAST TIPS
Avoid the temptation to be a breakfast skipper by following these quick tips from USDA's
Human Nutritional Information Service:
- No time? Build a breakfast around foods that are ready to
eat or take a little preparation time. There are plenty that qualify: fresh and canned
fruits, milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, ready-to-eat cold cereals and instant
- Take it to go... Try celery stuffed with peanut butter or
meat or cheese spread or dried fruits or vegetable juices. Perk up cereals… Top
cereals with fruits or stir chopped nuts such as peanuts, pecans and walnuts into cooked
- Not hungry yet? Drink juice. Something is better than
nothing. Have some bread or crackers later in the morning, then drink some milk and eat
some cheese, an egg or peanut butter.
- Don't skip if you're on a diet. There's no evidence that
skipping meals will help you lose weight. In fact, studies show that most people who skip
breakfast tend to eat more later in the day. Some even select more calorically-dense foods
that those who eat breakfast.
- BREAKFAST AND NUTRITION
Researchers at USDA's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University
analyzed three-day diet record of 650 Boston area senior citizens to find what food
contributed the most calories in their diets. Selecting optimal diets are critical to the
aged, many of whom are trying to lose or control their weight for effective disease
management. Other elderly, however, are at risk for undernutrition due to social and
Of the various eating patterns that emerged, the diet in which most of the breakfast
calories were supplied by cereal, milk and fruit provided the best nutritional profile
overall among those tested. According to Tufts researcher Katherine Tucker, Ph.D., the
vitamin fortified breakfast cereals, as well as the vitamins in milk, helped participants
reach the recommended dietary allowances for calcium and vitamins B6, riboflavin and
The nutritional benefits of breakfast cereals also were shown in a recent survey of more
than 4,000 households by General Mills, Inc. Adults who ate cereal for breakfast consumed
an average of 10 percent fewer calories than those who selected other breakfast foods,
with only 20 percent of their calories coming from fat.
Moreover, those who ate cereal for breakfast maintained a better nutritional profile over
the entire day than when they opted for other breakfast menus. For example, on days when
participants ate cereal for breakfast, they ate fewer calories from fat throughout the day
and 40 percent less cholesterol. They also consumed 20 percent more essential vitamins and
minerals than on non-cereal days.
Thus, for kids as well as adults, balanced breakfast choices can help provide the healthy
edge needed for optimum physical performance. For those who don't yet consume breakfast,
it's never too late to wake up to a healthy start.