Poor Youth Breakfasts Linked To Metabolic Syndrome In Adulthood

We’ve often been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Now it appears that there’s some data to back that up. A Swedish study following up on 16 year olds after 27 years supports that claim. A study conducted by Umeå University in Sweden, published in Public Health Nutrition supports this claim.


The findings are from the Northern Swedish Cohort, which is a 27-year prospective study of more than 1,000 subjects – the breakfast study included 889 of these. All were in the ninth grade when they enrolled. Since then, they’ve had interviews and full medical exams at ages 18, 21, 30, and 43 years. The study revealed that adolescents who ate poor breakfasts displayed a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome 27 years later, compared with those who ate more substantial breakfasts.


Compared with the breakfast-eaters, the skippers and sweets-eaters had significantly higher alcohol and tobacco intake and exercised significantly less.

Metabolic syndrome is a collective term for factors that are linked to an increased risk of suffering from cardiovascular disorders. Metabolic syndrome encompasses abdominal obesity, high levels of harmful triglycerides, low levels of protective HDL (High Density Lipoprotein), high blood pressure and high fasting blood glucose levels.


The study shows that the young people who neglected to eat breakfast or ate a poor breakfast had a 68 per cent higher incidence of metabolic syndrome as adults, compared with those who had eaten more substantial breakfasts in their youth. This conclusion was drawn after taking into account socioeconomic factors and other lifestyle habits of the adolescents in question. Abdominal obesity and high levels of fasting blood glucose levels were the subcomponents which, at adult age, could be most clearly linked with poor breakfast in youth.


“Further studies are required for us to be able to understand the mechanisms involved in the connection between poor breakfast and metabolic syndrome, but our results and those of several previous studies suggest that a poor breakfast can have a negative effect on blood sugar regulation,” says Maria Wennberg, the study’s main author.

Better habits in adulthood, like exercising and eating lots of fruits and veggies, eliminated the increased risk. So the good news – in this study at least – is that bad-breakfasters are not always irredeemable.


The study has been conducted by researchers at the Family Medicine Unit within Umeå University’s Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine and has been published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.


Breakfast Frequency Reduces Development of Metabolic Risk

Couple Eating BreakfastEating breakfast has its health benefits. The frequency of breakfasts consumed was the main factor studied. Interestingly, the quality of the breakfast food choices consumed did not make an impact on the results.


OBJECTIVE The relation of breakfast intake frequency to metabolic health is not well studied. The aim of this study was to examine breakfast intake frequency with incidence of metabolic conditions.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We performed an analysis of 3,598 participants from the community-based Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who were free of diabetes in the year 7 examination when breakfast and dietary habits were assessed (1992–1993) and participated in at least one of the five subsequent follow-up examinations over 18 years.

RESULTS Relative to those with infrequent breakfast consumption (0–3 days/week), participants who reported eating breakfast daily gained 1.9 kg less weight over 18 years (P = 0.001). In a Cox regression analysis, there was a stepwise decrease in risk across conditions in frequent breakfast consumers (4–6 days/week) and daily consumers.

The results for incidence of abdominal obesity, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension remained significant after adjustment for baseline measures of adiposity (waist circumference or BMI) in daily breakfast consumers. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for daily breakfast consumption were as follows:

abdominal obesity HR 0.78 (95% CI 0.66–0.91), Thumb_Diabetes_Metabolic_Syndrome_Cover

obesity 0.80 (0.67–0.96),

metabolic syndrome 0.82 (0.69–0.98), and

hypertension 0.84 (0.72–0.99).

For type 2 diabetes, the corresponding estimate was 0.81 (0.63–1.05), with a significant stepwise inverse association in black men and white men and women but no association in black women. There was no evidence of differential results for high versus low overall dietary quality.

CONCLUSIONS Daily breakfast intake is strongly associated with reduced risk of a spectrum of metabolic conditions.



  1. Mark A. Pereira, PHD1

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota

  2. 2Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois

  3. 3New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
  1. Corresponding author: Andrew Odegaard, odeg0025@umn.edu.
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