It seems that your mother was right when she reminded you that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”—at least when maintaining a healthy weight is on the agenda.
A breakfast that includes a bowl of cereal seems to help girls stay leaner than those who eat other foods for breakfast or skip the meal altogether, say researchers in a study published in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
As part of the study, researchers recruited over 2,300 girls between the ages of 9 and 10 and tracked their breakfast patterns during various three days intervals until the girls were 19 years of age. Those who ate cereal at least three mornings a week had a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or lower, within the normal range for their weight and height. However, girls who never ate cereal had an average BMI of 27, a range considered overweight by experts.
The rate of being overweight was even higher for those who skipped breakfast.
“When you have something for breakfast, you’re not going to be starving by lunch.” explained study author Dr. Bruce Barton, president of the Maryland Medical Research Institute in Baltimore.
But before you grab the box of frosted flakes, however, it’s important to realize that cereal consumption itself may not be the key to a lower weight; it may simply be an indication of a person who makes healthier lifestyle choices in general. Those who eat cereal with breakfast, for example, have been shown to consume less fat and cholesterol.
“Some of the girls who didn’t eat cereal, would just raid the fridge in the morning.” said Barton. “One had a breakfast of hot dogs and chocolate milk.”
While skipping breakfast can cause you to be extra hungry for your next meal, cereal seems to have a bigger impact on a healthy weight than other breakfast choices, according to researchers, because many cereals are high in fiber and low in fat. Breakfasts that did not include cereal, contained 60 percent more fat on average than those that included a bowl of cereal.
“Cereal is not very high in calories, but it tends to be absorbed more slowly by the body, keeping you satisfied longer than, say, a bagel.” said Barton.
Barton also suspects that the milk used along with the cereal helps, too. Previous studies have shown that the calcium in milk helps the body regulate fat better.
So, while starting the morning with a whole-grain cereal may be helpful in keeping your weight down, avoiding the donuts and cold pizza for breakfast certainly helps, too.