New Study Suggests Children Who Eat Cereal More Often Are Least Likely...

New Study Suggests Children Who Eat Cereal More Often Are Least Likely to Be Overweight

Research provides link between frequent cereal consumption and possible long-term nutrition and health benefits


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MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dec. 3, 2003–Children who frequently consume cereal are less likely to be overweight, according to the findings of a new study published in today’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Cereal eaters were also found to have lower body mass index (BMI) and more positive nutrient intake profiles than infrequent or non-cereal eaters.

The study was conducted to examine the relationship between ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal consumption habits and BMI of school-aged children. Although RTE cereal is a prevalent food in the diet of American children, especially at breakfast, and is a significant nutrient source for them, little or no research has been conducted to ascertain the relationship between ready-to-eat cereal consumption patterns and childhood obesity, until now.

Results of the study concluded that children who consumed 8 or more servings of RTE cereal within a period of 2 weeks had significantly lower BMIs compared to the children who consumed

Or fewer servings during that same time. Statistically, nearly 80 percent of the children who frequently consumed RTE cereal boasted an appropriate body weight for their age and gender. Intakes of vitamins A, B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, as well as calcium, iron and zinc were also higher in this group, as compared to the children who ate little or no servings of RTE cereal.

“The majority of children who frequently ate a ready-to-eat cereal had a normal, healthy body weight, while nearly half of the children who ate little or no cereal were overweight,” said G. Harvey Anderson, Ph. D., the co-author of the study, who is a Professor of Nutrition at the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Toronto. “For an average 10-year-old boy, that can equate to about a 12-pound difference,” Dr. Anderson concluded.

The benefits of RTE cereal consumption were also apparent in those children who were at risk for being overweight. According to CDC standards, the proportion of children ages 4-12 at risk for being overweight is 33.67 percent or roughly 1 in 3. However, children in this age group who ate RTE cereal 8 or more times during the 2-week study, lowered their risk to 21.3 percent or nearly 1 in 5. Conversely, the risk for being overweight increased to 47.4 percent, nearly 1 in 2, among children who ate RTE cereal 0-3 times in 2 weeks.

“Long-standing research confirms that children who eat breakfast have better cognitive function in school,” said Ann M. Albertson, MS, RD, Senior Nutrition Research Scientist, Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. “Now, combining those facts with this new data on the healthy BMI/high nutrient benefits associated with RTE cereals, we strongly encourage the consumption of RTE cereals for breakfast or snacking. This is one ideal way for families to promote the maintenance of healthy body weight and nutrient intake by children – a ‘win-win’ for everyone,” Albertson continued.

This study utilizes a unique methodology that was developed at the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. This methodology combines 14-day food diary data with portion size data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and nutrient data from the University of Minnesota’s Nutrition Data System for Research. The food consumption data were collected by the NPD Group, a marketing information company, through their National Eating Trends (NET) service. NET has been continuously tracking the eating habits of Americans since 1980.

The study sample, which consisted of 2,000 households, included 603 children, ages 4 through 12 years, and closely approximated the U.S. census data for age and race. The 603 children were categorized according to the child’s age and cereal consumption pattern. The study tracked all types of cereal, including whole grain and presweetened cereals such as Cheerios, Kix, Trix, Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams.

In the United States, close to one in three children are either at risk for being overweight, or are overweight. Overweight children often become overweight adults. The rising prevalence of overweight children is a major concern, with prevention recognized to be the best solution to the problem.

The Bell Institute of Health & Nutrition was developed at General Mills as part of their ongoing commitment to health and nutritional issues. The Institute’s mission is to drive the development of foods that help people to be healthy. Scientists within the Bell Institute have contributed to research on whole grains, micronutrients, and breakfast and have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. Through their involvement with health professional organizations, educational efforts and sound scientific research, the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition serves as a valuable resource for health professionals.

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New Study Suggests Children Who Eat Cereal More Often Are Least Likely to Be Overweight