19% of adolescent girls and 13% of boys do not eat breakfast, an unhealthy habit that occurs more in young people from more socioeconomically disadvantaged families, according to a study by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the University of Vic (UVic-UCC) with 7,000 adolescents from all over Spain. The authors of the work, Laura Esquius, Alicia Aguilar, Anna Bach and Marina Bosque, the four professors of the UOC’s Health Sciences Studies and researchers from the Foodlab group, have recalled that the first meal of the day “has an energetic value fundamental, and even more so in periods of growth and learning such as adolescence “.
The problem that Spain is 40% overweight and obese in children: “Most of them will have it for their entire lives”
To carry out this study, the research group used a survey by the DESKcohort project on social, educational, health and health behavior aspects, which had the participation of 7,000 Spanish adolescents. Analyzing the data, “socioeconomic inequalities have been found, since the risk of skipping breakfast was 30% higher in girls and 28% in boys with a more disadvantaged position, compared to those with a higher position,” according to Laura Esquius has pointed out.
The study, which is part of a special monograph on breakfast published in the scientific journal ‘Nutrients’, highlights the importance of this meal to develop brain skills and improve school performance during childhood. “There is an association between skipping breakfast and poor academic performance, since the risk increases in those adolescents with medium and low grades, compared to those with good results,” explained Alicia Aguilar.
In addition, the researcher has stressed that skipping breakfast “due to sleeping late or due to lack of time” also reflects other factors that favor “a more disorganized lifestyle and a greater risk to health and academic performance.” In this sense, another of the authors, Anna Bach, has remarked that adolescence “is an especially important stage to consolidate healthy lifestyles and establish health patterns that are perpetuated in adulthood”.
In fact, the study indicates that skipping breakfast in childhood and adolescence could be a predictor of unhealthy lifestyles, as there is a link with metabolic diseases, overweight and obesity. According to the authors, to avoid inequalities, public policies should be promoted adapted to the socioeconomic situations of each family and include the gender perspective. One of the recommendations that stand out in their work is to avoid the use of processed and ultra-processed foods and to consume fresh foods from the Mediterranean diet, such as fruit, nuts, whole grains and fermented dairy products.
“The strategies must be diverse in nature, such as community policies or nutritional education actions aimed at schoolchildren and families,” Esquius stressed. However, the professor added that “measures must be considered within the framework of healthy lifestyles, which includes an adequate diet, sufficient physical activity and necessary hours of sleep.” The authors of the study also highlight the importance of addressing this issue from the family environment, setting an example with the eating behaviors of parents, as detailed by Marina Bosque. In reference to school, the authors consider it necessary to add nutritional education to the course curriculum, in addition to implementing knowledge, skills and attitudes to “acquire appropriate habits and improve awareness of the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.”