Fact: Regular breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer. Studies have reported an association between breakfast eating and lower levels of overweight and obesity among Arab Gulf populations.1,2 A recent systematic review of evidence among children and adolescents concluded that current evidence suggests that regular consumption of breakfast cereals results in a lower BMI, and a reduced likelihood of being overweight.3 But is it breakfast cereal or eating breakfast which helps to protect against overweight? Further exploration by the researchers concluded that there appears to be three tiers in terms of BMI: breakfast cereal consumers were slimmer than other breakfast eaters, who in turn were slimmer than breakfast skippers – however more research is still needed.
In addition to a lower BMI (Body Mass Index), the evidence suggests that adults who eat breakfast have lower central obesity as measured by waist:hip ratios4. Similar results have been found for children5.
Obesity has reached epidemic levels in the Arab Gulf, particularly in Kuwait, the UAE, and KSA, where the prevalence of overweight/obesity is reported to be over 70%, particularly among women6. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, it is estimated that up to a fifth of young children and as many as 45% of school age children are overweight and obese7. Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of premature death in this region, and it is responsible for up to 54% of total deaths from non-communicable diseases.
Skipping breakfast is common among both children and adults in this region. For example in the United Arab Emirates, 28% of boys aged 6-7 years skip breakfast compared to 37% of girls at same age. In Bahrain, about 42% and 59% of school boys and girls aged 10–15 years are breakfast skippers. In comparison as many as 74% of school girls aged 12–16 years skip breakfast in KSA8.
There is consistent evidence that children and adults who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than breakfast skippers. Given the increasing levels of obesity and overweight in the Arab Gulf, encouraging the population to regularly consume a balanced breakfast of cereal with milk or yogurt and fruit or vegetables could hold weight control benefits for all people living in the Arab Gulf.
Click here to download a factsheet on The Benefits of Breakfast