Obesity is a complex topic woven with myriad issues like education, physical activity, and income. But in Delhi, India, childhood obesity is most closely linked to this surprising factor: breakfast. Children who skipped breakfast were much more likely to be obese, says a recent study from BMC Public Health.
This large study examined over 1800 students in eighth and tenth grade. The link between breakfast-skipping and obesity was straightforward. Those who never skipped breakfast were least likely to be obese. Those who skipped breakfast sometimes – a little more likely. Those who skipped breakfast all the time – very likely to be obese. To say this link was well-established is quite the understatement.
But breakfast also correlated with many other obesity lifestyle factors. Breakfast-eaters possessed many positive qualities. They consumed more dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Breakfast-eaters were more physically active, showed healthier attitudes about body image, and reported positive peer and parental influence. Breakfast-eaters were even less likely to be depressed. In short, breakfast-eaters showed the markers of a healthy lifestyle while breakfast-skippers showed the markers of an unhealthy lifestyle.
My opinion: Did breakfast cause all of this? Of course not. But this study clearly shows that eating breakfast daily is part of a healthy lifestyle that protects against obesity. Can someone skip breakfast yet lead an overall healthy lifestyle? Of course. But this study and plenty others show that’s less likely than you might think.
Did eating breakfast result in better food choices throughout the day? Did it cause less hunger and overeating later in the day? Did the active, healthy weight students just need breakfast to support their levels of physical activity? We just don’t know. But this study and many others on populations across the world show that eating breakfast is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Correlation isn’t the same as causation. But when correlation is this strong, it does us good to take notice. And breakfast correlates with health.
1. Arora, et al. Association of breakfast intake with obesity, dietary and physical activity behavior among urban school-aged adolescents in Delhi, India: results of a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 12:881, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.