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Breakfast lowers the risk of behavioral problems in children

According to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, children and teenagers who eat a healthy breakfast at home have better psychosocial health. While previous research has provided evidence for the important role of a nutritious breakfast, this is the first study to investigate the reported effects of whether young people eat breakfast, as well as where and what they eat. These findings offer valuable insights and recommendations for both parents and their children.

“Our results suggest that it is not only important to eat breakfast, but it’s also important where young people eat breakfast and what they eat,” said study first author José Francisco López-Gil, a postdoctoral fellow in Health and Social Research at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain. “Skipping breakfast or eating breakfast away from home is associated with increased likelihood of psychosocial behavioral problems in children and adolescents. Similarly, consumption of certain foods/drinks are associated with higher (e.g., processed meat) or lower (e.g., dairies, cereals) odds of psychosocial behavioral problems.”

The scientists analyzed data from the 2017 Spanish National Health Survey, which included questionnaires about breakfast habits and psychosocial health that parents or guardians of 3,772 Spanish children aged four to 14 filled in. The results showed that, while coffee, tea, milk, chocolate, cocoa, bread, yoghurt, toast, cereals, and pastries were associated with lower chances of psychological and behavioral problems, eggs, ham, and cheese were linked to higher risks of such health issues. Surprisingly, the scientists found that eating breakfast away from home may be nearly as detrimental as skipping the meal completely – most likely because meals away from home are usually less nutritious.

“The fact that eating breakfast away from home is associated with greater psychosocial health problems is a novel aspect of our study,” said Dr. López-Gil. “Our findings reinforce the need to promote not only breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle routine, but also that it should be eaten at home. Also, to prevent psychosocial health problems, a breakfast that includes dairy and/or cereals, and minimizes certain animal foods high in saturated fat/cholesterol, could help to decrease psychosocial health problems in young people.”

Further research is needed to understand the causal relationships between these observations and to devise dietary plans that maximize health and development.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer  

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