Researchers from the Institute of Innovation and Sustainability in the Agro-Food Chain (IS-FOOD) of the Public University of Navarra (UPNA) have published a study in which they show that the nutritional quality of breakfast is associated with important cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors in overweight children, even in those with good physical condition who practice exercise every day.
The authors of the article, published in the journal Nutrients, observed that children who consumed breakfasts with poorer nutritional quality and higher energy density (understood as more calories per gram of food) had higher levels of cholesterol and uric acid and a higher insulin resistance.
The scientists conclude that nutritional education programs to improve cardiovascular health of the pediatric population should include specific recommendations aimed at reducing the consumption of high energy density foods in that first meal of the day.
Children who ate breakfasts with worse quality had higher levels of cholesterol and uric acid in blood and higher insulin resistance.
“Breakfast is not only the first meal of the day, but it can also be considered the most important,” says Idoia Labayen, a professor in the Department of Health Sciences of the UPNA. “In spite of this, many children go to school without having breakfast, which makes them arrive hungrier at lunchtime and can eat more than they should.”
“The absence of breakfast has been previously related to excess fat and other associated disorders, so the promotion of breakfast is already being used as part of the strategy in the prevention of childhood obesity,” adds Labayen.
Quality at breakfast
However, beyond breakfast or not, the quality of the first meal of the day is very relevant. After evaluating the dietary habits of breakfast of a total of 203 schoolchildren aged 8 to 12 years with excess weight, it was observed that 13% of children did not eat breakfast daily and that those who consumed breakfasts with worse nutritional quality and higher density energetics had higher levels of cholesterol and uric acid in the blood and greater resistance to insulin.
“Precisely, a breakfast of higher energy density had a negative impact on glucose metabolism, even in those children who complied with the daily recommendations of physical activity, that is 60 minutes in moderate to vigorous intensity,” explains the expert.
The researchers say that nutritional education programs to improve the cardiovascular and metabolic health of children should focus on reducing the consumption of high energy density foods, such as “ultra-processed products, commonly present in children’s breakfasts”, concludes Labayen.