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Breakfast Is Key to Achieving Maximum Nutrition

By Alfredo Flores
June 21, 2002

Teen breakfast-skippers beware: You could lose out on an important nutritional contribution to your total daily food intake.

Adolescents who eat breakfast are two to five times more likely than breakfast-skippers to consume at least two-thirds of the daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, folacin, phosphorus, iron and vitamins A, B6 and D, according to Theresa Nicklas, a professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas

The college is home to the Children’s Nutrition Research Center (CNRC), where the study was done. CNRC is operated by the Agricultural Research Service, the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nicklas found that the intake of other vitamins and minerals--including zinc and calcium--as well as of protein and carbohydrates, was much higher among those who ate breakfast. Also, fat consumption was lower.

This study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and involved more than 700 ninth-graders. The students participated in a nutrition intervention program called “Gimme 5" in New Orleans, La. Analysis of the baseline 24-hour dietary recalls showed 19 percent of adolescents skipped breakfast.

Studies have shown that adolescents who consume breakfast make better food choices throughout the day, and those who skip breakfast fail to compensate for the missed vitamins and nutrients when they eat at other times.

Breakfast consumption has declined in all age groups during the past 25 years, especially among female adolescents aged 15-18 years. For adolescents, skipping breakfast has been associated with a higher body mass index.

According to Nicklas, a greater effort is needed to encourage the consumption of breakfast to improve the nutritional well-being of adolescents. Many studies of breakfast consumption and dietary patterns are outdated, have not included the 15-year-old age group, or have included the 15-year-olds only as part of a broad age range, she added. Fifteen is the age when many adolescents are entering high school and becoming more independent, which is part of the reason Nicklas chose this age group.