THURSDAY, Nov. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Children who start the day with a bowl of bran cereal, muesli high in nuts and seeds, or porridge made from rolled oats feel fuller and eat less at lunchtime than kids who down corn flakes or white bread for breakfast.

That's the conclusion of a new British study that appears in the November issue of Pediatrics.

While further studies are needed, the researchers say the results add to mounting evidence that so-called low-glycemic index (GI) foods can play an important role in controlling weight.

GI is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate raises a person's blood sugar level. High-GI foods, such as croissants and corn flakes, are the kind of breakfast fare that can cause a spike in blood sugar. Typically, these are foods that are highly processed. Low-GI foods, by contrast, break down more slowly in the body and tend to be higher in fiber, such as whole-grain cereals and nutty breads.

In the new study, children who ate a low-GI meal in the morning consumed significantly fewer calories at lunch than kids on a high-GI breakfast. The study is the first to observe such an effect in a group of normal and overweight children, the researchers say.

"Clearly the inclusion of low-GI foods is a good thing," says Janet M. Warren, a research dietician at Oxford Brookes University and one of the authors of the study.

The research was funded in part by the university and through an unconditional grant from Great Britain's Sugar Bureau.

In the United States, schools participating in the federal-state School Breakfast Program are required to meet federal nutritional requirements. Those requirements are based on dietary guidelines updated every five years, with the next release set for 2005.

Erik Peterson, a spokesman for the American School Food Service Association, says the federal advisory panel tapped to recommend the next set of revisions would likely take into account the latest research on low-GI diets.

"We think it definitely should be taken into consideration, just as [is] all current nutrition research," he says.

Thirty-eight children, aged 9 to 13, participated in the breakfast study. Morning meals were served at the youngsters' middle school, which already ran a breakfast program.

Researchers devised three test breakfasts of varying GI levels to see what effect they would have on kids' appetite and lunch intake. Breakfasts were created to roughly match the number of calories and nutritional content each child would normally consume.

The children were divided into five groups. Each group randomly received one of the three breakfasts for a three-day period, with at least a five-week gap between test breakfasts.

Before lunchtime, children were allowed only water and a small serving of fruit provided for their mid-morning break. At lunch, they were free to choose from a range of foods on the school menu. The participants weren't told their lunch intake would be closely observed.

Children who ate a low-GI breakfast not only ate less at lunch but reported less hunger before lunch than those who consumed the high-GI breakfast. That was true even when a small amount of sugar was added to a low-GI breakfast to make it tastier.

Warren and her colleagues are now conducting further research to understand the effects of a low-GI breakfast beyond lunchtime. "We don't know what happens for the rest of the day," she says.

It would be premature to recommend eliminating high-GI foods from the breakfast plate, she says. But the study does highlight the potential of a low-GI diet amid a growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

"Low-GI foods are sustaining and potentially would mean children aren't going to get hungry and snack," Warren says.

More information

To learn more about the value of a nutritious breakfast for children, visit the Food Research & Action Center. For more on children and nutrition, check with Baylor University.

Read this Next
About UsOur ProductsCustom SolutionsHow it’s SoldOur ResultsDeliveryContact UsBlogPrivacy PolicyFAQ