Girls who skipped breakfast as part of a study into energy intake and physical activity were found to consume fewer calories*(kcals) throughout the day.
Researchers from the University of Bedfordshire and Loughborough University looked at the eating and physical activity habits of 40 teenage girls over two, three day periods and how skipping or eating breakfast affected their daily energy intake.
They found that the girls ate, on average, an extra 115 calories from 10:30 onwards when they skipped breakfast, compared with days when they ate a standard breakfast provided by the researchers, which consisted of Weetabix, semi-skimmed milk and orange juice.
However, because the breakfast provided to the girls contained 468 calories, the net intake for total calories consumed in one day was -353 calories when they skipped breakfast.
The findings were outlined in the paper Effect of breakfast omission and consumption on energy intake and physical activity in adolescent girls published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The research showed that eating breakfast increased total energy intake in girls over the short term, however the link between eating breakfast and weight maintenance still requires further work.
Dr Julia Zakrzewski-Fruer, a Lecturer in Health, Nutrition & Exercise at Bedfordshire, said: “Many adolescent girls skip breakfast despite evidence showing that this behaviour is linked to a higher risk of being overweight or obese. The findings of our study indicate that skipping breakfast increased energy intake later in the day, but this was not enough to account for the energy missed at breakfast.
“Therefore, daily energy intake was actually higher when breakfast was consumed compared with when it was skipped in girls over the short term. Due to the limited evidence base, further research will help to determine whether daily breakfast consumption can be used as an intervention to reduce obesity and future disease risk in young people.”
Dr Keith Tolfrey, a Reader in Paediatric Exercise Physiology from Loughborough University, said: “There are many reports that show missing breakfast is associated with obesity, which may have led to premature assumptions that breakfast can be used as an intervention for weight control. But we do not know why eating breakfast is associated with a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese, or whether eating breakfast can be used effectively as a weight control strategy.”
The paper’s findings supported the small number of experimental studies which looked at one day of breakfast omission and found that skipping breakfast was linked to lower daily energy intake, which questions why young people who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to be overweight or obese.
* When people say 'calories', they usually mean 'kilocalories (kcal)'. A calorie is a very small unit - most adults need around 2,000 kilocalories (kcal) each day. This would equate to 2,000,000 calories (cal).
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