Scientific study backs cereal as healthiest breakfast option

28 October 2014

People who eat cereal for breakfast are more likely to be healthier and slimmer than those who eat other options or who have no breakfast at all, according to a new literature review published in Australia.

bf2The findings have been published in Advances in Nutrition, an international peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Nutrition. The review spanned more than 230 papers published in Australia over 30 years.

It is the first time the evidence relating to breakfast cereal and its impact on healthy diets, bodyweight, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and bowel health has been systematically assessed using the Australian government’s stringent National Health and Medical Research Council criteria.

The review also clarifies questions about the contribution breakfast cereals make to sodium and total sugars intakes in the overall diet.

The report’s author was Professor Peter Williams, who is Honorary Professorial Fellow at University of Wollongong and Adjunct Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Canberra.

He said the review showed that breakfast cereal eaters are more likely to have a healthier diet and to weigh less, and are less likely to suffer from certain diseases.

“It was clear from the research that regular breakfast cereal eaters have more nutritious diets, which are higher in vitamins and minerals and have a greater likelihood of meeting recommended nutrient intakes,” said Professor Williams.

“Despite common belief, breakfast cereal eaters do not have higher sodium intakes than non-breakfast cereal eaters – a finding consistent with recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data, which shows ready-to-eat breakfast cereals actually provide only around 2% of the sodium in Australian diets.

“The review found that for children who consume breakfast cereal, there is no difference in their overall daily energy intake, total sugars intake or risk of overweight or obesity, whether they consume pre-sweetened breakfast cereals or other breakfast cereals.

bf3“In fact, one of the strongest findings was the benefit of eating breakfast cereal for weight management. Regularly eating breakfast cereal is associated with a lower body mass index and a 12% lower risk of being overweight or obese in both adults and children.”

The review also found that high-fibre and wholegrain breakfast cereals help to improve bowel function, prevent constipation, and may lower the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Additional findings include:

• Breakfast cereals high in soluble fibre (such as oat, barley or psyllium) help lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

• Regularly eating wholegrain and high-fibre breakfast cereal is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (by 24%) and cardiovascular disease (by 20-28%).

• Breakfast cereal plays an important role in bowel health, with evidence that high-fibre, wheat-based breakfast cereals help prevent constipation and improve bowel function.

• Regularly eating breakfast cereal is associated with higher milk intakes.

• Eating breakfast cereal as a meal or snack replacement can assist with weight loss in adults.

The paper received support from the Chief Research Scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Dr David Topping, who said its value was in its scientific rigour and thorough peer-review.

The paper was commissioned by the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum of the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

Summary of the review

To view the systematic literature review of the evidence base click here.

Images courtesy of: