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Eating a daily breakfast can help children to reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes

Tuesday 02 September 2014

Children who eat breakfast every day are at lower risk of Type 2 diabetes than children who eat breakfast occasionally or not at all, according to new research.  In particular, children who eat a high-fibre breakfast cereal are at lower risk of future Type 2 diabetes than those who eat a breakfast with lower fibre content.

Rising levels of Type 2 diabetes in the UK are a major public health concern and one that is affecting younger and younger age groups. Diet plays an important role in the development of the condition, but it is not clear what components are important or to what extent certain eating behavours might influence risk. Few studies have addressed these questions in children.

Findings from this study, which was led by researchers from St George’s, University of London and the Universities of Oxford and Glasgow and published online in the journal PLoS Medicine, could aid the development of strategies to address this.Their research involved over 4,000 children aged nine and 10 years, who were attending primary school in London, Birmingham or Leicester. Each was asked about their breakfast habits and provided fasting blood samples, physical measurements and detailed dietary information. This allowed the researchers to study the impact of breakfast habits on key markers of Type 2 diabetes risk.

Children who reported eating breakfast every day had a much better Type 2 diabetes risk profile than children who did not, regardless of differences in their body fat, socioeconomic status or physical activity levels. These differences were scalable, with children who ate breakfast more frequently having more favourable risk profiles. Among children who did eat breakfast daily, those who ate a high-fibre breakfast cereal had the lowest insulin resistance, which is an important marker of changes that could lead to Type 2 diabetes in the future. 

“These findings provide further evidence of the importance of a daily breakfast for long-term health” said Dr Angela Donin of the St George’s Population Health Research Institute, who led the research. “It is concerning to note that more than 1 in 4 children in our study reported not eating breakfast every day. For children, eating a sensible breakfast every day, one which is high in fibre, may well help to reduce future risk of developing Type 2 diabetes”

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK Director of Research, said “We already know that giving your child a healthy breakfast as part of a balanced diet, can have a range of benefits for health and wellbeing. More research will be needed to help us understand the exact link between eating breakfast and the development of Type 2 diabetes, including studies that follow children through to adulthood to see how many young people with these warning signs go on to develop the condition.  

Breakfast is an important meal, usually providing a significant proportion of someone’s total energy intake during the day. These findings highlight the need for clinical trials to investigate the impact of changing breakfast habits to a more healthy, high fibre breakfast on insulin resistance, particularly in children.  

The results come from the Child Heart And Health Study in England (CHASE), which has been studying the health of British children aged nine and 10 years. The study was funded by Diabetes UK, with earlier support for the CHASE Study from the Wellcome Trust and the MRC National Prevention Research Initiative.