Child Breakfast Habits Could Predict Obesity


Not getting enough sleep sleep and skipping breakfast could be predictors of childhood obesity.

A study published by Pediatrics and led by a team from University College in London examined data from almost 17,000 children from families in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002.

Flickr Image Courtesy: Ruth Hartnup, CC BY-SA 2.0
Flickr Image Courtesy: Ruth Hartnup, CC BY-SA 2.0

The team’s analysis found skipping breakfast and not having a regular bedtime or enough sleep were important in predicting whether a child would become overweight or obese. Information about the children’s height and weight was collected at ages three, five, seven and 11.

The children were divided into four groups that showed the children’s different body mass indexes. Almost 84 percent had an average weight, 0.6 percent were in a “decreasing” group, 13 percent had “moderately increasing” BMIs, and 2.5 percent had “high increasing” BMIs.

“This study shows that disrupted routines, exemplified by irregular sleeping patterns and skipping breakfast, could influence weight gain through increased appetite and the consumption of energy-dense foods,” said lead researcher Yvonne Kelly to Yahoo.

Kelly, from UCL Epidemiology and Public Health, said a child’s mother has influence over whether the child becomes obese or overweight as well.

“It is well known that children of overweight or obese mothers are more likely to be overweight themselves, probably reflecting the ‘obesogenic’ environment and perhaps a genetic predisposition to gain weight,” she said.

Other factors were looked at as predictors of weight gain. Breastfeeding and introducing solid food at an early age were not linked to children’s weight. Sugary drink consumption, fruit intake, watching TV and participating in sports weren’t factors either.

If the mother smoked, or if she was obese or overweight herself, were considered factors that could predict the child’s BMI. The study is the first in the UK to review patterns of BMI weight in the first 10 years of a child’s life along with the lifestyle factors that could affect and predict the weight gain.

“The underlying influences on different patterns of BMI development are not well understood, and psychosocial outcomes linked to BMI development have been little investigated,” the study’s abstract said.

Girls were more likely to be in the “moderately increasing” BMI group, while Pakistani, Black Caribbean and Black African children were more likely to be in the “high increasing” BMI group. The groups also indicated causes for emotional distress.

“Children in the ‘moderate’ and ‘high’ increasing groups had worse scores for emotional symptoms, peer problems, happiness, body satisfaction, and self-esteem, and those in the ‘high increasing’ group were more likely to have tried alcohol and cigarettes,” the study said.

Using observational information, the researchers were unable to draw any cause-and-effect conclusions. The study used data from thousands of children taken from over a ten-year period.

The early life factors found to predict a child’s BMI are important, but changeable, according to the study’s conclusion.

“Several potentially modifiable early life factors, including smoking in pregnancy, skipping breakfast, and bedtime routines, were important predictors of BMI development in the overweight and obese range, and high BMI growth was linked to worse psychosocial well-being,” the study said.