A summary of research that informed the development of the Breakfast-eaters initiative is available below and in our fact pack (PDF, 124KB).
More research on breakfast-eating and healthy eating in New Zealand families and whanau is available from the Health Promotion Agency website.
Another useful report on the importance of breakfast is available for download from Agencies for Nutrition Action.
Summary of background research
Why are we focusing on parents and caregivers?
Parents have been found to have a strong influence on children’s eating habits. A longitudinal study by Keski-Rahkonen et al (2003) found the most significant factor relating to whether a child ate breakfast was whether the parents ate breakfast. Similarly, Cheng et al (2008) determined breakfast skipping in 10 to 14-year-old students was related to the perceived parental importance of breakfast and whether the child believed breakfast consumption improved concentration in class.
Breakfast consumption can enhance academic and cognitive performance
Mahoney et al (2005) tested no breakfast and two different types of cereal, and found in two samples of 30 children (6 to 8 years and 9 to 11 years of age) participants performed better after eating one of the two breakfasts compared to when they consumed no breakfast. A review by Rampersaud et al (2005) also found consumption of breakfast improved academic performance, school attendance and tardiness.
Eating breakfast has been shown to have a relationship with a lower body mass index (BMI)
Of 2,184 participants surveyed once at childhood and once again at adulthood, lower BMI and waist circumference were observed in those who did not skip breakfast as a child or adult, compared to those who skipped breakfast both as an adult and child or just as an adult (Smith et al, 2010).
The Physicians’ Health Study, a large scale longitudinal study of health professionals in the United States, found increased breakfast consumption at baseline was related to lower levels of weight gain and a lower risk of having a BMI greater than 25 up to 13 years after baseline (Bazzano et al, 2005). During 10 years of follow-up, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found breakfast consumers were at lower risk of gaining five or more kilograms in weight (van der Heijden et al, 2007).
Increased fruit and vegetable consumption and decreased snack food consumption can be seen with breakfast eating
Children who usually eat breakfast at home are approximately 20% more likely to eat 5+ a day fruits and vegetables, 24% more likely to drink milk, 31% more likely to eat toast, and 130% more likely to eat cereals, compared to children who sometimes or never eat breakfast at home.
In contrast, the ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ children are 68% more likely to eat sweets and lollies, 123% more likely to drink soft drinks, and 186% more likely to eat pies and sausage rolls than the ‘always’ children.
Eating more at breakfast time has been shown to increase physical performance
Wyon et al (1997) tested the physical performance of 10-year-olds when they had consumed 20% of their daily energy needs from breakfast against when they had only consumed 10% of their daily energy needs. Children performed a physical running task better after consuming 20% of their energy intake from breakfast.
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