Eating breakfast at home keeps kids’ hearts healthy – study

The first study of the link between eating breakfast at home and heart disease risk factors in childhood has revealed the importance of this daily routine for children’s overall health.

Data published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition from eight European countries participating in the EC-funded project I.Family has exposed the relationship between breakfast routine and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.

Over 8,500 children from 2 to 9 years of age were involved. Parents or primary carers completed a questionnaire about the children’s breakfast habits – in particular, the frequency with which they ate breakfast at home.  The findings revealed that only 14.9% of older children (6-10 years) consume breakfast at home only at weekends or less frequently; the figure rises to around 22% for younger boys and girls.

School-aged boys who do not eat breakfast at home on a daily basis were found to have a higher risk for obesity, abnormal triglyceride (TG) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels (TG>75mg/dl and HDL cholesterol<40mg/dl). School-aged girls were additionally found to have a greater risk for high TG to HDL cholesterol ratio (>3.5), compared with daily breakfast consumers, after adjustment for several confounding factors including physical activity levels assessed with accelerometry.  Children who breakfasted at home less frequently also engaged in less moderate to vigorous physical activity when compared with children eating a daily breakfast at home, possibly because those eating breakfast are more energetic throughout the day.

Study author Dr Stalo Papoutsou, from the Research and Education Institute of Child Health, Cyprus (a partner in the EC-funded I.Family Study) says, “Our findings demonstrate that daily breakfast consumption contributes to controlling school children’s weight and lipid profile. It may also promote higher levels of physical activity.”

Papoutsou continues, “Risk factors that accelerate the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) begin in childhood.  Nutritional interventions typically include reduction of salt, fats and sugar but other diet-related behaviours, such as daily breakfast consumption, need to be promoted too. Promoting breakfast consumption at home may lead to a higher quality in breakfast choices because of parental control, or to increased satiety resulting in better control of energy intake over the day, or even both.”

Research into breakfast habits will continue within the EC-funded I.Family study, as the children in the cohort move into adolescence.  I.Family researchers will examine trends in breakfast consumption and adiposity/CVD risk factors, as well as analysing the relationship between parents’ breakfast behaviours and the habits of their children/teenagers.

ENDS/Contacts and Notes follow

No breakfast at home: association with cardiovascular disease risk factors in childhood.

Papoutsou S, Briassoulis G, Wolters M, Peplies J, Iacoviello L, Eiben G, Veidebaum T, Molnar D, Russo P, Michels NMoreno LATornaritis M 

View online – European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014 Jul;68(7):829-34. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.88. 

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 Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants Study (IDEFICS), 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
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS 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
Kate Viggers
Dissemination and communication
University of Zaragoza, Spain Luis Moreno Spanish cohort
Ghent University, Belgium Stefaan De Henauw Belgian cohort



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