These were the findings of a study that examined the association between body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle in children and teenagers, including their breakfast habits, dairy consumption and physical activity.
It showed that nearly one-third of children skipped breakfast, girls even more often than boys. Children of normal weight were more in the habit of eating breakfast daily than those who were overweight or obese.
Poor nutritional habits and physical inactivity have been blamed for children’s overweight and obesity. Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day and studies have found that obesity is less common among those who eat breakfast regularly. Milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt are nutrient-rich foods and several studies have suggested an inverse correlation between dairy product consumption and BMI.
This cross-sectional study included 7116 Turkish boys and girls aged 6-18 years who were asked to complete a questionnaire about how often they ate breakfast, their intake of milk and other dairy products, their physical activity, and whether their mother had a job. Their height and weight were measured to calculate their BMI.
Breakfast habits vary with age and gender
Results showed that only 62.6% ate breakfast every day. Boys were more in the habit of eating breakfast than girls: 64.5% of boys eating breakfast daily compared with 60.7% of girls. As they got older, the schoolchildren became significantly less likely to eat breakfast: 79.1% of 6-11 year-olds eating breakfast every day compared with 52.1% of 12-18 year-olds.
Children who were overweight or obese were significantly more likely to skip breakfast than their counterparts of normal weight (3.8% vs 2.8%). One in four overweight or obese children never ate breakfast.
Those children who skipped breakfast ate lunch in the form of snacking more often than those who ate breakfast every day. However, there were no significant associations between eating lunch and overweight/obesity.
Milk consumption linked to lower BMI
Only 0.9% of the children and adolescents never consumed dairy products. Milk was negatively associated with BMI scores. There was no significant association between yogurt intake and BMI scores. Conversely, cheese was positively associated with BMI scores.
The authors suggested that milk may be helping in food intake regulation through suppressing appetite. Milk might also be a marker of other healthy lifestyle traits that protect children against overweight and obesity.
Mother’s work status is associated with children’s weight
Overweight/obesity in this study was more common among children of working mothers, with a prevalence of 29.3% compared with 23.3% among those whose mums did not go out to work.
The authors suggested that providing breakfast and lunch in schools may offer a way to overcome social inequalities in nutrition. There should also be an increased focus on daily milk consumption as children move into adolescence, the authors said.
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