At-home breakfast consumption among New Zealand children: associations with body mass index and related nutrition behaviors

Jennifer Utter, Robert Scragg, Cliona Ni Mhurchu, David Schaaf
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007, 107 (4): 570-6

OBJECTIVE: The evidence supporting the relationship between breakfast consumption and body weight is growing, but the mechanisms to explain this relationship are less understood. This study aims to describe the relationship between breakfast consumption and body mass index (BMI) and relevant nutrition behaviors.

DESIGN: Cross-section design using the New Zealand's 2002 National Children's Nutrition Survey. Participants were interviewed about their food habits and physical activity, completed a food frequency questionnaire, and were weighed and measured for height.

SUBJECTS/SETTING: A nationally representative sample of 3,275 children aged 5 to 14 years.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Breakfast consumption, BMI, and nutrition behaviors.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: The demographic characteristics of children by breakfast consumption were generated by cross-tabulations. Regression models were used to examine the relationships between breakfast consumption and BMI and nutrition behaviors.

RESULTS: Breakfast consumption was most frequent among boys, children aged 5 to 6 years, children aged 7 to 10 years, New Zealand European children, and children from more affluent neighborhoods. Age differences in breakfast consumption increased with socioeconomic deprivation; older children experiencing the most socioeconomic deprivation were the least likely to eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast was associated with a higher BMI (P=0.002). Children who missed breakfast were significantly less likely to meet recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption (P=0.005) and more likely to be frequent consumers of unhealthy snack foods. No relationship was found between breakfast consumption and physical activity.

DISCUSSION: Results from our study suggest that efforts to increase breakfast consumption should be prioritized for older children from more deprived backgrounds. Increasing at home breakfast consumption may limit the amount of unhealthful snack foods children consume later in the day. Schools also have the potential to make a reasonable nutritional impact by providing healthful and affordable breakfast options for children who do not eat breakfast at home.

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