Eating a bowl of high-fiber cereal in the morning before school "as part of an overall healthful lifestyle" may help teenage girls maintain a healthy body weight as well as adequate nutrient intake, research shows.
In a study supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and cereal maker General Mills Inc., researchers analyzed data collected over a 10-year period on more than 2,300 girls participating in a long-term study of growth and health.
The investigators had the girls, who were 9 or 10 years old at the start of the study, complete 3-day food records at different times over the study years and they recorded the girls' weight by body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height.
As the girls moved through the turbulent teenage years, those who ate cereal three times per week or more had lower BMI (Body Mass Index) than girls who did not eat cereal, investigators report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. This appeared to be true regardless of the girls' level of physical activity.
"As girls matured through adolescence, body mass index increased as would be expected, but cereal eaters were leaner than girls who did not eat cereal, regardless of age," Dr. Bruce A. Barton of the Maryland Medical Research Institute in Baltimore and colleagues report.
According to the researchers, calcium-packed milk is often consumed with cereal and calcium has been tied to lower body mass index in children, possibly because calcium may help regulate body fat.
Beyond the relationship between cereal and a healthy BMI, eating cereal had positive effects on nutrient intake in girls, resulting in diets significantly lower in fat and cholesterol and significantly higher in calcium and fiber.
It's possible, Barton and colleagues offer, that cereal "displaces less-healthful food choices at breakfast." Unfortunately, they also found that breakfast and cereal consumption fell during the adolescent years.