Eating a good breakfast supports children’s health: girls who skip breakfast more likely to be fat

The message that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ is familiar to many of us.  And now a European study of Cypriot children has revealed that choosing the right kind of breakfast each morning can have a direct impact on their weight and overall health.

The paper, published online in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition (, investigates the significance of breakfast food choices in child health and the association between eating breakfast and Body Mass Index (BMI), which is an indicator of healthy weight.

The analysis is based on a sample of 1558 children aged between four and eight from Pafos and Strovolos in Cyprus, and examines the relationship between breakfast consumption with children’s diet quality and cardio-metabolic risk factors.  The research shows that amongst girls, those who eat breakfast on a daily basis tend to have lower mean BMI scores.  They are also less likely to have high cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, regardless of their parents’ BMI and their own levels of physical activity.  Furthermore, amongst both boys and girls who ate breakfast regularly, breakfast cereals were found to be the most nutritious choice, compared to other breakfast alternatives.  Children who consumed pastry products for breakfast had the least favourable nutrient profile.

Paper author Stalo Papoutsou, Clinical Dietician & Nutritionist and Associate Investigator at the Research and Educational Institute of Child Health in Cyprus, is keen to stress the importance of delivering public health messages to encourage good breakfast habits in children.  She said: “We want to encourage health professionals to promote the benefits of daily breakfast consumption, and educate parents and children to make the right breakfast choices in order to ensure higher consumption of micronutrients and fibres, whilst reducing intake of sugar and fat.”

The recently published paper – titled “The combination of daily breakfast consumption and optimal breakfast choices in childhood is an important public health message” – draws on data from the EC-funded IDEFICS Study (2006 – 2012), which is now being followed-up by the EC-funded I.Family research project (2012 – 2017).  I.Family is investigating the relationship between family behaviours and children’s breakfast habits, and observing changes to these habits as children move into adolescence.

ENDS/Contacts and Notes follow

Media contact for Research & Educational Institute of Child Health: Stalo Papoutsou, RDN, Associate Investigator.  Tel: 0035799335110.  E-mail:  Stalo Papoutsou is available for interview by arrangement.

Media contact for I. Family Study –Rhonda Smith +44 (0) 1264 326427/+44 (0) 7887 714957

Notes for Editors:

  1. The I.Family Study is an EC funded project under Framework 7 of the KBBE programme running from March 2012 to February 2017. It has 17 partners, working across 11 countries and with cohorts in 8 European countries – Germany, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Estonia, Spain and Belgium.
  2. The study has two strategic objectives:
    (1) Understand the interplay between barriers against and drivers towards healthy food choice;
    (2) Develop and disseminate strategies to induce changes that promote healthy dietary behaviour in European consumers especially adolescents and their parents
  3. The I.Family Study is re-assessing the families first engaged with the IDEFICS study when children were below 10 years of age now that they move into adolescence – the ‘tween’ years – identifying those families that have adopted a healthy approach to food and eating habits and those that have not. I. Family is adopting a holistic approach by also investigating the biological, behavioural, social and environmental factors that drive dietary behaviour as children journey towards adulthood.

4. I.Family study partners

Participant organisation Lead investigator(s) Key responsibilities
University of Bremen, Germany Wolfgang Ahrens Project coordinator
BIPS – Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research GmbH, Germany Iris Pigeot German cohort, statistics
Institute of Food Sciences, National Research Council, Italy Alfonso Siani Italian cohort, nutritional epidemiology
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark Lucia Reisch,
Wencke Gwozdz
Consumer behaviour & environmental influences
University of Lancaster, United Kingdom Garrath Williams Ethics, policy, and stakeholder engagement
Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden Staffan Mårild,
Lauren Lissner
Swedish cohort, family analysis
University of Helsinki, Finland Jaakko Kaprio Familial aggregation & genetic modelling
University of the Baleares Islands, Spain Andreu Palou,
Catalina Picó
Genomic analysis
University of Pécs, Hungary Dénes Molnár Hungarian cohort
Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, The Netherlands Roger Adan Neuroimaging & neuropsychology
Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Cyprus Michael Tornaritis Cypriot cohort
National Institute for Health Development, Estonia Toomas Veidebaum Estonian cohort
Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Italy Vittorio Krogh Dietary assessment methods
University of Bristol, United Kingdom Angie Page,
Ashley Cooper
Physical activity monitoring
Minerva PRC Ltd, United Kingdom Rhonda Smith,
Marc Catchpole
Dissemination and communication
University of Zaragoza, Spain Luis Moreno Spanish cohort
Ghent University, Belgium Stefaan De Henauw Belgian cohort


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