Study finds adults who skip breakfast miss out on important nutrients
COLUMBUS, Ohio — They say breakfast is most important meal of the day, and a recent study from Ohio State University suggests adults who skip it are missing out on important nutrients that are most abundant in morning meals.
An analysis on more than 30,000 American adults showed that skipping breakfast made them miss out on calcium in milk, vitamin C in fruit, and fiber, vitamins and minerals found in fortified cereals. Missing these nutrients likely left adults low on them for the entire day.
“What we’re seeing is that if you don’t eat the foods that are commonly consumed at breakfast, you have a tendency not to eat them the rest of the day. So those common breakfast nutrients become a nutritional gap,” said Christopher Taylor, professor of medical dietetics in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest dietary guidelines, calcium, potassium, fiber and vitamin D are considered “dietary components of public health concern” for the general U.S. population – with iron added for pregnant women – because shortages of those nutrients are associated with health problems.
Most research related to breakfast has focused on the effects of the missed morning meal on children in school, which includes difficulty focusing and behavioral problems.
The sample for the study included 30,889 adults age 19 and older who had participated in the survey between 2005 and 2016. Researchers analyzed data from 24-hour dietary recalls participants completed as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
In the sample, 15.2% of participants, or 4,924 adults, had reported skipping breakfast.
The researchers translated the food data into nutrient estimates and MyPlate equivalents using the federal Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and daily dietary guidelines. They then compared those estimates to recommended nutrient intakes established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies.
On several key recommendations measured, from fiber and magnesium to copper and zinc, breakfast skippers had taken in fewer vitamins and minerals than people who had eaten breakfast. The differences were most pronounced for folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D.
“We found those who skipped breakfast were significantly more likely not to meet the bottom threshold of what we hope to see people eat,” said Stephanie Fanelli, one of the study’s authors.
Also, breakfast skippers had an overall lower-quality diet than those who ate breakfast. For example, breakfast skippers were more likely to eat more added sugars, carbohydrates and total fat over the course of the day than those who ate in the morning. This is, in part, because of higher levels of snacking.
“Snacking is basically contributing a meal’s worth of calorie intakes for people who skipped breakfast,” Taylor said. “People who ate breakfast ate more total calories than people who didn’t eat breakfast, but the lunch, dinner and snacks were much larger for people who skipped breakfast, and tended to be of a lower diet quality.”
While the data represent a single day in each participant’s life, the large sample provides a “nationally representative snapshot for the day,” Taylor said.
“It shows that those who skipped breakfast had one nutrient profile and those who ate breakfast had a different nutrient profile,” he said. “It helps us identify on any given day that this percentage of people are more likely to be skipping breakfast. And on that day, their dietary intake pattern showed that their consumption didn’t capture those extra nutrients that they have basically missed at breakfast.”
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