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Cereal at breakfast aids healthy lifestyle: Study

By Sarah Hills , 25-Nov-2008
Last updated on 25-Nov-2008 at 16:50 GMT

Eating cereal at breakfast time can help people manage their weight and eat more healthily throughout the rest of the day, according to a new study.

The consumption of cereals in the morning is associated with eating more fiber and carbohydrates and less fats, as well as greater physical activity among girls, said the research by researchers at The General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition in Minneapolis.

Links between cereal eating, BMI (body mass index), and weight management have also been reported in other studies but the authors said: “The accumulating evidence advocates for encouraging the consumption of breakfast cereal in the maintenance of healthy weight in children and adults.”

It comes at a time when governments, regulatory advisors and consumer watchdogs are all drawing attention to the role foods high in fat, sugar and salt may play in the rise of childhood obesity.

Similarly, cereal manufacturers were under the spotlight in October when a Consumer Reports study found that eleven popular cereal brands carry as much sugar as a glazed doughnut.

The 32-nation study said Kellogg's Honey Smacks, for example, sold in Germany, Slovenia, and Switzerland had about 40 per cent sugar. The same product marketed in the US contained 55 per cent sugar, it claimed.

The new study called Consumption of breakfast cereal is associated with positive health outcomes looked at evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study, which recruited a total of 2,379 girls aged between nine and 10 whose dietary data was collected from 1987 to 1997.

The purpose of the new report, published in the November 21 issue of Nutrition Research, was to examine evidence for three possible assumptions.

They are that the ingredients in cereal are conducive to positive health outcomes; that foods eaten along with cereal (eg milk) may be associated with positive health outcomes; and cereal eating may be a marker for a healthy lifestyle that is advantageous to positive health outcomes.

The results showed that cereal consumed at breakfast, relative to foods consumed during non-cereal breakfasts, contained more healthful micronutrients and less fat, protein, sugars, and carbohydrates.

Eating cereal was also associated with higher milk consumption (and consequently, greater calcium intake) at breakfast time and lower intake of breakfast foods characterized as fats/sweets, meat/eggs, and quick breads.

And eating cereal for breakfast was related to healthier eating throughout the entire day, including more fiber and less fat consumed, as well as greater physical activity.

At the same time cereal consumption was linked with less soda consumption.

In conclusion, the authors said that cereal consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle may play a role in maintaining adequate nutrient intake and physical activity among girls.

The report stated: “The findings of this study have implications for dietetics professionals, who might promote the importance of eating cereal at breakfast for children and adolescents.”

Cereal was defined as including both ready-to-eat and cooked cereals and the research was supported by General Mills and a grant from the NHLBI.

Source: Nutrition Research volume 28 (2008), pages 744–752

Title: Consumption of breakfast cereal is associated with positive health outcomes: evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.

Authors: Ann M. Albertson, Douglas Thompson, Debra L. Franko, et al.

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