Background: Several cross-sectional studies reported that heavier children eat breakfast less often. However, no longitudinal studies have addressed whether skipping breakfast leads to excessive weight gain.
Objective: To investigate whether skipping breakfast was prospectively associated with changes in body fatness.
Methods: A cohort of >14000 boys and girls from all over the US, 9- to 14-y-old in 1996, returned annual mailed questionnaires (1996-1999) for the Growing Up Today Study. We analyzed change in body mass index (BMI; kg/m(2)) over three 1-y periods among children who reported breakfast frequency.
Results: Children who reported that they never eat breakfast had lower energy intakes than those who eat breakfast nearly every day. Children who were more physically active reported higher energy intakes, as did those who reported more time watching television/videos and playing videogames. Like previous studies, skipping breakfast was associated with overweight, cross-sectionally. However, overweight children who never ate breakfast lost BMI over the following year compared to overweight children who ate breakfast nearly every day (boys: -0.66 kg/m(2) (s.e.=0.22); girls: -0.50 kg/m(2) (s.e.=0.14)). But normal weight children who never ate breakfast gained weight relative to peers who ate breakfast nearly every day (boys: +0.21 kg/m(2) (s.e.=0.13); girls: +0.08 kg/m(2) (s.e.=0.05)). Breakfast frequency was positively correlated with self-reported quality of schoolwork.
Conclusions: Overweight children who never eat breakfast may lose body fat, but normal weight children do not. Since numerous studies link skipping breakfast to poorer academics, children should be encouraged to eat breakfast.