The saying "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" has taken on new meaning for teenagers for a new study suggests that as teens enter adulthood, they are more likely to skip breakfast and increase their fast food consumption, and that both behaviors lead to an increased risk of weight gain.
This is the finding of an article appearing in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health by researchers at The Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at The Miriam Hospital and Brown Medical School.
"Since the transition from adolescence to adulthood appears to be a particularly high-risk period for weight gain, we wanted to investigate what role skipping breakfast and fast food consumption had on weight during this important time," says lead author Heather Niemeier, PhD, a psychologist at The Miriam Hospital.
"We found that both fast food consumption and breakfast skipping significantly increased between Waves 2 and 3. More importantly, both behaviors were associated with increased weight gain during this time," says Niemeier.
The increase in fast food and breakfast skipping could be due to the increased independence and responsibility for food preparation that adolescents face during this developmental transition the authors note.
"Fast food is a quick, easy, and tasty option for aging adolescents who may be used to relying on Mom or Dad to prepare their meals," says Niemeier. "As adolescents enter the workforce or college, breakfast may be looked at as an unnecessary hassle and easily skipped. However, skipping breakfast can lead to greater levels of hunger later in the day, causing overeating, or the choosing of heavy foods that fill you up faster, but may not be very nutritious."
The authors write that since adolescent obesity is a significant predictor of overweight status in adulthood and poses a risk for adult morbidity and mortality, it is important to identify dietary behaviors early on that are associated with unhealthy weight gain in order to create effective interventions.
"This study highlights the importance of encouraging adolescents who are entering adulthood to eat breakfast regularly and to make healthy food choices, limiting their fast food consumption," says Niemeier.