We’ve often been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Now it appears that there’s some data to back that up. A Swedish study following up on 16 year olds after 27 years supports that claim. A study conducted by Umeå University in Sweden, published in Public Health Nutrition supports this claim.


The findings are from the Northern Swedish Cohort, which is a 27-year prospective study of more than 1,000 subjects – the breakfast study included 889 of these. All were in the ninth grade when they enrolled. Since then, they’ve had interviews and full medical exams at ages 18, 21, 30, and 43 years. The study revealed that adolescents who ate poor breakfasts displayed a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome 27 years later, compared with those who ate more substantial breakfasts.


Compared with the breakfast-eaters, the skippers and sweets-eaters had significantly higher alcohol and tobacco intake and exercised significantly less.

Metabolic syndrome is a collective term for factors that are linked to an increased risk of suffering from cardiovascular disorders. Metabolic syndrome encompasses abdominal obesity, high levels of harmful triglycerides, low levels of protective HDL (High Density Lipoprotein), high blood pressure and high fasting blood glucose levels.


The study shows that the young people who neglected to eat breakfast or ate a poor breakfast had a 68 per cent higher incidence of metabolic syndrome as adults, compared with those who had eaten more substantial breakfasts in their youth. This conclusion was drawn after taking into account socioeconomic factors and other lifestyle habits of the adolescents in question. Abdominal obesity and high levels of fasting blood glucose levels were the subcomponents which, at adult age, could be most clearly linked with poor breakfast in youth.


“Further studies are required for us to be able to understand the mechanisms involved in the connection between poor breakfast and metabolic syndrome, but our results and those of several previous studies suggest that a poor breakfast can have a negative effect on blood sugar regulation,” says Maria Wennberg, the study’s main author.

Better habits in adulthood, like exercising and eating lots of fruits and veggies, eliminated the increased risk. So the good news – in this study at least – is that bad-breakfasters are not always irredeemable.


The study has been conducted by researchers at the Family Medicine Unit within Umeå University’s Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine and has been published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.