A paper published in Scientific Reportsdescribes how researchers affiliated with the University of São Paulo's Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil and colleagues at institutions in Europe evaluated behaviors leading to weight gain in adolescents. Childhood obesity can favor the premature emergence of health issues such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The main finding is that skipping breakfast, a common habit among teenagers, correlates directly with increased waist circumference and body mass index in this age group. The habit can lead to an unbalanced diet and other unhealthy behaviors, potentially making the adolescents vulnerable to weight gain.
"We found that skipping breakfast is associated with adiposity markers in adolescents regardless of where they live and how much sleep they get, or whether they're male or female," said epidemiologist Elsie Costa de Oliveira Forkert, a member of the Youth/Child Cardiovascular Risk and Environmental (YCARE) Research Group in FM-USP's Preventive Medicine Department.
"By skipping breakfast, millions of children and adolescents around the world are probably replacing a more healthy homemade meal including dairy products, whole-grain cereal and fruit with fast food at a venue on the way to school, or at the school itself," Forkert said.
"This typically means consuming industrialized hypercaloric foods of low nutritional value, such as deep-fried snacks, pastries, sodas and other sugary drinks, which are all directly associated with the development of obesity."
The European data came from the "Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence" cross-sectional study (HELENA-CSS, 2006-07), which involved 3,528 adolescents in 10 major cities. The subjects were between 12.5 years and 17.5 years of age and were stratified by age, gender, region, and socioeconomic status. Males and females accounted for roughly half of the study population each (47.7 percent and 52.3 percent, respectively). The principal investigator was Luis Alberto Moreno, a professor at the University of Zaragoza's Health Science School in Spain.