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importance of breakfast

Regular breakfast eaters are less likely to have high cholesterol, blood pressure

Delicious: Fruits in breakfast are good. —

CHENNAI: There seems to be a lot of merit in the old saying “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.”

Studies across the globe are increasingly indicating the necessity to break one’s fast in the morning with a substantial portion of the day’s nutritional requirements.

Technically, having a meal in the morning a few hours after waking up makes you a healthier person. An inverse relationship has been established between breakfast eating and body mass index. Proof is being offered for the theory that regular breakfast eaters are less likely to have high cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar. Some researchers have gone on to tie up missing breakfast with a sedentary lifestyle.

While making a healthy meal at breakfast is good for all, for children it is all the more essential. Studies show that better school performance is linked with breakfast eating. Director of the Institute of Child Health Sarada Suresh says, “Breakfast has a great impact on children. Unlike adults, most children have finished dinner by 8 p.m., go to bed relatively earlier. Sometimes, it is nearly a 12 hour gap between two meals.”

She goes on to explain the co-relation between school performance and breakfasting. “The glucose level in the body has to be maintained at a particular level. For the brain to function, glucose is absolutely essential. Denying the body its quota of food in the morning means that the blood sugar level could dip.” As a result, concentration goes down and children get irritable and sometimes even faint in school.

It is important to pack in at least 600-700 calories at breakfast and balance it out with sugars, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, Dr. Suresh stresses. If there are frequent dips in blood sugar, it could even affect growth, she adds. Parents have a key role to play in insisting that a child has breakfast. The excuses of no hunger and lack of time simply will not do, she adds.

As much as breakfast is important to a child’s life and growth, its significance in an adult’s life cannot be underestimated. A recent study in Mumbai conducted by the Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science, Mumbai, with support from Kellogg India, goes to show that the tendency to skip meals is common among all age groups. About 34 per cent of all those interviewed said they skipped breakfast, making it the meal most likely to be missed in a day. Worse still, about 75 per cent of teenagers and adults believed it was fine to skip breakfast once or twice in a week, a tendency to “manage until lunch.”

Malathi Siva, research director, Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science, more women and adolescent girls skip breakfast than men and boys. Once a person starts missing breakfast, snacking begins, leading to a cascading effect on health. The breakfast must contain 25 per cent of the day’s requirements, she adds.

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