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Study: Regular Meals Help Children’s Health

Is skipping meals associated with an increased risk of developing overweight and diseases at ages 6 to 8 years?

Skipping meals is not recommended. Image: Osnat Rom

In a study conducted by the University of Finland and published in the European Journal of Nutrition, it was found that children who skipped any of the main meals of the day (breakfast, lunch or dinner) had a higher risk of developing illnesses related to overweight and associated diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes as early as the age of 6-8.

The main reason for this is that skipping a main meal contributed to children eating uncontrollably, emotional eating, fast eating and a reduced sense of satiety. In addition, a correlation was found between an increased intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat and low fat margarine and low intake of vegetable fats, and the development of heart disease and metabolic diseases in children.

The study included 512 Finnish boys and girls aged 6-8 with no background disease or risk factors; researchers examined their eating habits, the types of foods they ate and health measures such as insulin, sugar, fat and blood cholesterol, and blood pressure. It was found that less than half of the children ate 3 daily meals. Instead, snacks were the main source of energy and sugar and about a quarter of children drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily. The children consumed foods like cereal, jam, and chocolate that were not recommended because of the high amounts of sugar they contained. In addition, despite the great importance attributed to regular eating and consuming fruit and vegetables on a daily basis at these ages, only a minority of children ate fruit and vegetables regularly.

The researchers emphasized that eating irregularly and consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of developing overweight in children, which in turn may also lead to a build-up of harmful lipids. Therefore, the researchers recommended parents should ensure that their children have healthier dietary habits such as adhering to a nutritional schedule, consuming fat of vegetable origin instead of animal, preferring water and skim milk over sugar-sweetened beverages and fish over red meat.

In addition to a balanced diet, previous studies have shown that eating 5 meals a day reduces the levels of bad lipids and cholesterol in the blood and improves insulin sensitivity in adults. And how about you? Do you manage to maintain a regular family eating schedule?

Further reading

Summary of the research published by SPRINGER