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  • Teens Take Heed: No More Breakfast Skipping and Fast Food Feasting

  • Skipping BreakfastCan't find the time for breakfast? Love those French fries? If you're a teenager, you might want to think twice about your eating habits. A Miriam Hospital study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, suggests that as teens enter adulthood they are more likely to skip breakfast and consume more fast food, and that both behaviors increase the risk of weight gain.

    Researchers at the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center analyzed two "waves" of data during different age intervals, from a group of 9,919 adolescents. Wave 2 data was collected when the group's ages were between 11 and 21. Wave 3 data was collected when the same teens were between 18 and 27 years old.

    Breakfast and fast food consumption, along with Body Mass Index (BMI) were measured throughout both waves. Data for waves 2 and 3 was drawn from Add Health, a school-based study of more than 20,000 adolescents in grades 7 through 12 in the United States.

    "We found that both fast food consumption and breakfast skipping significantly increased between waves 2 and 3. More importantly, both behaviors were associated with increases in weight gain during this time," says Heather Niemeier, PhD, lead author and psychologist at The Miriam Hospital.

    Significant Study Stats

    • The five-year interval between waves 2 and 3 represents the transition from adolescence to adulthood. During this period, the number of participants who were considered overweight increased from 29 percent to 47 percent.
    • Fast food consumption increased for adolescents from 2 days per week to about 2.5 days as young adults. Also by young adulthood, participants reported that they consumed breakfast only 3 days per week - a decrease from 4 to 5 days reported during adolescence.
    • The authors note that increased independence and responsibility for food preparation, which adolescents face during this developmental transition, may have caused the rise in fast food consumption and breakfast skipping.

    "Fast food is a quick, easy and tasty option for aging adolescents who may be used to relying on mom or dad to prepare their meals," says Niemeier. "As adolescents enter the workforce or college, breakfast may be viewed as an unnecessary hassle and easy to skip. However, skipping breakfast can lead to greater levels of hunger later in the day, which causes overeating or the choosing of heavy foods that fill you up faster, but may not be very nutritious."

    Take Better Steps Now

    In many cases, obese teens become obese adults, increasing the risks of illness and even an earlier death. Obesity and unhealthy weight gain during adolescence can lead to increased risk for heart disease, as well as elevated levels of cholesterol and blood pressure in young adulthood. Therefore it is important to identify dietary behaviors early on that are associated with unhealthy weight gain.

    "This study highlights the importance of encouraging adolescents who are entering adulthood to eat breakfast regularly and to make healthy food choices, limiting their fast food consumption," says Niemeier.

    For more information on the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center please call 401-793-8940.

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