The importance of breakfast for health and educational outcomes in children and young people was explored In a recent scientific review, commissioned by Magic Breakfast and conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation.
Many children and young people in the UK do not have access to a range of healthy foods which may affect their brain and overall development. This is particularly true for those living in low-income households.
Breakfast skipping is much more common in adolescents, especially in teenage girls and those living in areas of high deprivation.
Regularly missing out on breakfast increases the risk of children and young people not getting enough of the key nutrients they need for effective learning.
What did the researchers discover about breakfast skipping?
Up to 30%
A large-scale studyi found that up to 30% of children and young people were skipping breakfast, starting their school day on an empty stomach.
17% vs 11%
A common finding across studiesii was that girls were more likely to skip breakfast than boys (17% vs 11%), with weight concerns being cited as one reason for not eating among adolescent girls.
Up to 30%
Another studyiii found that breakfast skipping was up to 30% higher among teenagers in the most deprived groups.
What are children and young people lacking in their diets?
How does breakfast contribute to young people’s health?
Does eating breakfast support learning?
How does a freely accessible school breakfast help to narrow the gap in health and education inequalities?
1. Invest in universal school breakfast.
Every child and young person in the UK should have access to a free, nutritious school breakfast.
2. Conduct more research with adolescents, especially girls.
To understand and overcome barriers for adolescents skipping breakfast, especially girls.
3. Conduct research into the long-term impact of breakfast.
Understanding breakfast habits and their impact on educational and health outcomes will provide new insight into the importance of breakfast.
4. Research the impact of different types of breakfast.
Not all breakfasts are created equal. Understanding the optimal breakfast for learning and health is key to improving long-term health and learning outcomes.
5. Standardise the monitoring and evaluation of school breakfast.
Children and young people in every school should have equal access to a nutritious breakfast which meets nutritional standards. Standard evaluation of breakfast programmes across the country ensures consistency in the quality and accessibility of food, and supports greater understanding of breakfast on health and learning outcomes.
What evidence did the scientists examine?
The review looked at studies from developed countries and included children aged 4 – 18 years and analysed evidence on breakfast habits linked to:
- nutrient intakes
- dietary quality
- weight outcomes
- cognitive (brain) function
- academic performance
It also examined the role of providing school breakfasts in supporting these outcomes, particularly for children and young people living in low Socio-Economic Status (SES) households or in areas of high deprivation.
This research was commissioned by Magic Breakfast through support by Arla, Heinz and Quaker. All views expressed in the scientific review are the nutritional scientists’ own.