Teenagers who didn't eat a good breakfast were more likely to be obese and have elevated blood sugar in middle age, a new study shows.
Researchers at Umea University in Sweden found that teens who reported eating no breakfast or only sweets were two-thirds more likely to develop a cluster of risk factors linked to heart disease and diabetes when they were in their 40s than their peers who ate more substantial morning meals.
"It may be that eating breakfast aids in keeping to a healthier diet the rest of the day," the study's lead author, Maria Wennberg, told Reuters Health in an email.
Kids who miss breakfast experience hunger surges and tend to overeat later in the day, Dr. David Ludwig, a pediatrics and nutrition researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said. He was not involved in the current study.
Wennberg and her colleagues reviewed data from 889 people in Lulea, Sweden. In 1981, when they were 16 years old, the participants completed questionnaires about what they ate for breakfast on a single day.
Researchers then examined them in 2008, when they were 43 years old, for metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
They found that 27 percent had developed signs of the syndrome, according to the study published in Public Health Nutrition.
Moreover, those who reported missing breakfast or eating a poor-quality one as a teenager were 68 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome in middle age.
When the researchers analyzed separate components of the syndrome, they found that obesity and high blood-sugar levels at age 43 were linked with poor breakfast habits at age 16.
About 35 percent of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart Association. In addition to a large waistline and high blood sugar, components of the syndrome include high blood pressure and low "good" cholesterol.
Past studies found links between higher quality diets and healthier lifestyles, the authors write. Poor breakfast habits may therefore be part of an unhealthy lifestyle.
The authors noted the study's limitations, including that the 1981 questionnaire asked teens only about a single day's breakfast. They also did not know the participants' adult breakfast habits.
Wennberg called for more research on the link between adolescent breakfast habits and middle-age disease as well as for studies evaluating the benefits of school-breakfast programs "both because of effects on metabolic health and because of effects on