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Debate rages over effects of skipping, having healthy breakfast

By Stanley Akpunonu and Adaku Onyenucheya
23 May 2019   |   3:41 am
In recent times there have been claims and counter claims on the health effects of skipping and having breakfast. New evidence published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed skipping breakfast was significantly associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease. However, others studies have shown that intermittent fasting effectively…

Breakfast. Photo/Pexel

In recent times there have been claims and counter claims on the health effects of skipping and having breakfast.

New evidence published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed skipping breakfast was significantly associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease.

However, others studies have shown that intermittent fasting effectively reduce calorie intake, increase weight loss and improve metabolic health.

Unfortunately, the average Nigerian does not enjoy a regulated, sometimes, regimented meal schedule. Usually, a pleasant and well-planned day would likely begin with a balanced breakfast, but this can sometimes appear foreign or difficult to achieve.

Due to busy schedules, most working-class Nigerians do not even bother about breakfast and most of those who do can be found in the cities.

Upon eating, most people consume eba, amala, yam pottage or beans in the evening. Sometimes, they might even consume akpu or amala for breakfast.

A study published in 2017 by Agugo Uchegbulam, Iheme Godwin and two other researchers in Nkwere, Owerri, Imo State, revealed that about 59 percent of women regularly missed breakfast, while 48 percent rarely consumed three meals a day.

Major reasons cited were workload, limited time, and sometimes fasting. Comparing breakfast intake among school children in rural and urban areas of Nsukka, Enugu State in 2012, Onyechi Uchenna and Ugwunnadi Ginikachi in their research explained that only 10 percent of children in rural areas did not consume breakfast, as against 21.7 percent of children in urban communities in the state.

Over the years, ‘Mamaput’ restaurants have become essential for Nigerian social and eating habits. And for the upwardly mobile their services are vital for survival.

Afternoon visits to several popular canteens across the country: Lagos (Yakoyo in Ilupeju, White House Restaurant in Yaba and Olaiya Food House, in Surulere; Ibadan (Ose Olohun Restaurant in Bodija; Iya Meta in Oduduwa) or Imo State (Hungry Man Restaurant in Owerri) present a picture of desperation, mild anxiety and rush to quickly satisfy hunger and return to work as quickly as possible, since many tend to miss breakfast.

By simple definition, breakfast is “the first meal of the day,” which is consistent with the etymology to “break” the “fast”.

In Nigeria, it is defined as “morning feeding”, depending on light and dark cycles independent of sleeping or waking.

Generally, an oper­ational definition of breakfast is “the first meal consumed within two hours after prolonged sleep in any 24-hour duration.

This represents the extended daily time during a fasting sit­uation, a period when food has already been digested, absorbed and stored as glycogen and the only time when most of the people are post-absorptive. But due to the demands of the tissues and organs, the body has to rely on stored glycogen, which can then be affected when skipping breakfast extensively.

Eating behaviours, such as consuming breakfast has been significantly associated with physiological, psychological, and social health dimensions.

A regular omission, particularly the breakfast meal, has been associated with poorer diet quality, lower intakes of total energy, vitamins, and minerals, including increased risk of central adiposity, markers of insulin resistance and cardiometabolic risk factors.

Estimated prevalence rates of meal skipping in the young adult population vary between 24 and 87 percent with young adults consistently reporting higher rates of meal skipping compared with other age groups.

Quite a lot of people are concerned about their weight and looks, especially people who prefer a slimmer frame. Some stop eating while some deliberately skip meals just to help them manage and regulate their weight. Guess what, if you think skipping breakfast will help you maintain a healthy weight, you might want to think again.

In fact, recommendations include starting the day with a healthy breakfast as this reduces the desire to eat a more food later during the day and balances the required diet to achieve adequate body weight.

By choosing a balanced, nourishing breakfast, you can get off to the right start, and fill in the gaps in food groups likely to be missing in your diet.

Milk is a perfect breakfast complement. Studies show milk drinkers and breakfast eaters have more nutritious diets and tend to be healthier than non-milk drinkers and breakfast skippers.

Standard nutritional recommendations suggest that an ideal breakfast meal should contain 20 per cent to 35 per cent of daily energy derived from three food groups, including milk and milk derivatives, cereals (unrefined and whole grain) and fresh fruit or juice without added sugar.

Why do people skip breakfast? In several studies, reports have shown that time management remains an issue that leads to meal skipping, particularly among young adults.

In 2013, International Journal of Education and Research reported a study conducted by Afolabi et al among Nigerian university students where about 48 percent of Nigerian university students skip meals due to time, while 19 percent and 13 percent of students skip due to lack of appetite and inability to cook respectively.

In 2014, BMC Public Health published a study conducted by Deliens et al that university students would rather spend time on activities than cooking, especially when they must cook only for themselves. So, the lack of time could be the main reason for the varied prioritization of eating breakfast.

How do you make healthy breakfast choices? Choosing foods that help enhance satiety is an important success factor in any weight management plan. A rising meal plan among many young and aspiring Nigerians is the desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle by missing breakfast, thereby eating two or even one meal per day.

Health experts across the world have explained that milk is an excellent choice of fluid as it not only rehydrates the body after a long sleep but provides a host of beneficial nutrients.

To mark the World Milk Day, FrieslandCampina WAMCO makers of Peak Milk and Three Crowns recommend Peak Milk protein to provide about 18 percent of the daily value per cup, the lactose (the natural sugar in milk) or simply the thickness of the beverage may play a role in the satiety benefits.

FrieslandCampina WAMCO recommend that Nigerians explore various ways to include milk in their diet as it remains one of the natural sources of vitamins and minerals. These nutrients enhance growth and development of mental and physical performance while serving as one of the cheapest yet effective sources of protein.

What are the benefits of not skipping breakfast?
Control blood sugar: Eating breakfast helps keep the blood sugar steadier throughout the day, whether you have diabetes or not. For people with normal glucose test results, this might help avoid insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes. Drops and spikes in the blood sugar can also affect your mood, making one more nervous, grumpy or angry.

Good for your heart: In 2017, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that people who skip breakfast are more likely to have atherosclerosis, which happens when the arteries narrow and hardens because of the buildup of plaque. It can also lead to heart attack and stroke.

Do better at work or school: To begin the day, metabolism must work appropriately. Breakfast helps kids perform their best in the classroom. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters have better scores on math, reading, and standardized tests. They can pay better attention as compared to skippers.

Plus, a recent study found drinking milk could even positively impact the brain and mental performance.