Metabolic and Behavioral Effects of Breakfast Frequency and Quality in a Bi-Ethnic Sample of Children

Maureen Timlin, Ph.D.
Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota

Obesity, due to its high prevalence, is one of the more pressing public health problems today. One intriguing line of research that may have broad public health application in this regard is the role of breakfast habits on rates of obesity. For a number of behavioral and physiological reasons, the breakfast meal may be of unique importance with respect to appetite control, dietary quality, and obesity risk. In children and adolescents, breakfast skipping prevalence is reported to range from 12 to 34% and to increase with age. Numerous observational studies have explored the association between breakfast frequency and risk of obesity, with most noting an inverse association. However, only a few small short-term randomized trials have been conducted on this topic.

Therefore, to fully address whether the frequency of eating breakfast, and the type of breakfast eaten, may play an important role in energy balance, dietary quality, and obesity risk, we propose to conduct a 2-center randomized cross-over trial of a breakfast intervention in a bi-ethnic group of overweight and obese 8-11 year old children who habitually consume breakfast less than four times per week. The interventions will include supplying breakfast foods, along with instruction, over 6 week treatment periods so that we can evaluate effects of both breakfast frequency (7 days/wk v. usual intake) and quality (whole foods balanced v. highly processed meals). on various outcomes.

We hypothesize that increased breakfast frequency and quality will result in improved metabolic, behavioral, and psychological outcomes. To contribute to this area of research, additional long-term randomized controlled trials that are simple in design and generalizable should be conducted for potential translation into public health practice.