UMEÅ, SWEDEN — Poor breakfast habits in adolescence predicted the metabolic syndrome in adulthood in a Swedish study that followed 889 people from age 16 to age 43. Results of the study at Umeå University appeared on-line Jan. 31 in Public Health Nutrition.

Researchers defined poor breakfast habits as skipping breakfast or only drinking or eating something sweet.  People with poor breakfast habits at age 16 were 68% more likely to have metabolic syndrome at age 43.

Researchers used International Diabetes Federation criteria for the metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of risk factors, including central obesity, dyslipidaemia (bad triglyceride and cholesterol levels), hypertension and impaired glucose regulation. In the study, poor breakfast habits at age 16 also predicted central obesity and high fasting glucose at age 43.

The people in the study were drawn from the Northern Swedish Cohort, a population-based cohort with 26-year follow-up. The people completed questionnaires about breakfast habits at age 16. Health examinations were performed at ages 16, 21 and 43. Follow-up data collections were conducted in 1983 (age 18 years), 1986 (21), 1995 (30) and 2008 (43).

People who reported poor breakfast habits at age 16 had a higher prevalence of family history of diabetes, higher alcohol consumption, a higher prevalence of smoking and a lower physical activity level compared with breakfast eaters. The researchers still concluded poor breakfast habits have an independent ability to predict metabolic risk.

“The finding that poor breakfast habits at age 16 years predicted the metabolic syndrome at age 43 years remained statistically significant after multivariate adjustments with lifestyle variables age 16 years (smoking, high alcohol consumption, physical activity),” the study said.

According to the study, in the United States and Europe, about 10% to 30% of children and adolescents regularly skip breakfast and the skipping increases from childhood to adulthood.

“Considering the amount of people skipping breakfast in the U.S.A. and Europe, it is crucial from a public health point of view to identify predictors and in the future research also analyze possible casual mechanisms behind adolescent breakfast habits and future metabolic risk,” the study said.

A regional agreement between Umeå University and Västerbotten County Council on cooperation in the field of medicine, odontology and health supported the study.