Eating a healthful breakfast is good for you for many reasons, and a new study says that for kids, this regular practice can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, once referred to as “juvenile” diabetes, develops early in life as a chronic condition. The pancreas is unable to produce the hormone insulin, or sufficient amounts of it, to maintain a proper level of glucose, or blood sugar. The more common type 2 diabetes develops later in life, often with a significant contribution by unhealthful behaviors that encourage the body to become resistant to insulin.
According to a recent study published in PLoS Medicine, getting into the habit early in life of eating a healthful breakfast might help kids lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the study, children who skipped breakfast most days had higher levels of known diabetes risk factors.
More than 4,000 children ages 9 and 10 were studied. More than 1 in 4 said they did not eat breakfast every day. Their resistance to insulin, a marker for diabetes, was higher than those who said they ate breakfast every day.
The kind of breakfast was important, too. Kids who ate a high fiber cereal, or one composed of complex carbohydrates, showed a lower insulin resistance than the ones who ate a meal higher in simple carbohydrates, such as biscuits.
There are two kinds of carbohydrates: complex and simple. Complex carbs are more healthful because they are less refined and the body takes longer to digest them. That helps moderate glucose levels. Simple, or refined, carbohydrates are digested more quickly and can cause blood sugar to spike.
Whole grains, or complex carbs, have more dietary fiber and are found, for example, in whole wheat and whole oats. Simple carbs have more sugar, and, in addition to refined grains, are found in milk products and fruit. They can be part of a healthful diet, but refined sugar products — foods rich in white flour and added sugar — are not. So it’s better to sweeten your whole wheat flake cereal with fruit than white sugar.
Of course, a good breakfast also has some protein (eggs, for example), but this study focused on carbohydrates. And because it showed only an association, further studies are required to adjust for factors such as a child’s socioeconomic status, degree of physical activity and body fat in order to draw concrete conclusions.
But there’s no question oatmeal is a better breakfast choice than toast made from white bread. Anything that might stave off diabetes and its chronic complications is a good thing. (See our blog, “Teens Who Develop Diabetes Have a Stark Future.”
To learn more about carbohydrates, visit the information page on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.