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The Importance of Breakfast Consumption to Nutrition of Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults

Nicklas, Theresa A. DrPH, LN; O’Neil, Carol PhD, MPH, RD; Myers, Leann PhD

Nutrition and the Life Cycle

Breakfast consumption has been identified as an important factor in nutrition, especially during growth stages. This article discusses data from nearly 2,500 children, adolescents, and young adults in Louisiana and considers the impact of breakfast consumption on their nutritional well-being.

The importance of breakfast consumption relative to school performance 1,2 and dietary adequacy 3–10 recently has received attention. Several investigators have suggested that omission of breakfast or consumption of an inadequate breakfast may contribute to dietary inadequacies, which are rarely replenished by other meals during the day. 5,8 The majority of the recent studies have focused on children and adults, with limited attention paid to the impact of breakfast on adolescents’ dietary nutrition.

Breakfast consumption has declined during the past 25 years in all age groups, especially among adolescents. 11,12 Skipping breakfast has increased with age, 7,12,13 particularly among female adolescents. Breakfast consumption trends tend to reflect new behaviors by certain subgroups rather than of the changing US sociodemographics. 11,12

A limited number of studies have evaluated the nutrient intake contribution of breakfast meals by source (ie, home vs school) 14,15 or that of a simple menu item, such as ready-to-eat cereal. 5,9,16–19

An additional issue is the use of a vitamin-mineral supplement with breakfast. Supplement use continues to be a widespread behavior linked to popular conceptions of good health and well-being. 20 Research has shown that vitamin-mineral supplement use increases with age. 21 Therefore, it is important to consider nutrients from supplements, along with dietary sources when assessing individual intake, particularly at breakfast. 22

The purpose of this article is to review these important issues in a population of 10-year-old children and young adults in Bogalusa, La, and a sample of 15-year-olds attending high schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, La, with highlights of findings from other studies.

Breakfast packs quite a nutritional punch

Theresa A. Nicklas, DrPH, LN, is Professor of Pediatrics at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. Her areas of expertise are cardiovascular health and nutritional epidemiology, child nutrition, and health promotion and chronic disease prevention.

Carol O’Neil, PhD, MPH, RD, is an Associate Professor and the Didactic Program Director at the Louisiana State University. Her research interests include food allergy, food security, and diet and health of low-income populations.

Leann Myers, PhD, is Associate Professor of Biostatistics at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the coauthor of more than 20 articles on nutrition.

Corresponding author: Theresa A. Nicklas, DrPH, LN, Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates Street, Houston, TX 77030 (e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.