UAE: Skipping breakfast could lead to behaviour issues among kids, doctors warn

Experts point out that it is also not enough to eat just any kind of food for breakfast — it has to be balanced and nutrient-rich


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Fri 23 Sep 2022, 4:53 PM

Last updated: Fri 23 Sep 2022, 6:08 PM

Children who do not eat their breakfast properly could be at an increased risk of developing psychosocial behavioural problems, doctors in the UAE have said, citing new research.

Skipping breakfast could mean missing the vital nutrients that supply energy not only to the body — but also to the brain, said Arfa Banu Khan, clinical psychologist at Aster Clinic, Bur Dubai.

This health concern was highlighted in a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Supporting the research findings, Khan said that in her clinical practice, a number of children who came to her with behavioural issues did have poor eating and sleeping habits.

"Most of them usually skipped or postponed breakfast and had it together as 'brunch' — clubbing of breakfast and lunch together," she said.

Experts also pointed out that it is not enough to eat just any kind of food for breakfast.

"It is important that we have a balanced, nutrient-rich, energy-supplying breakfast. The study clearly emphasises this. It found that among people who ate breakfast, the ones who had nutrient-deficient are likely to experience behavioural issues," Khan said.

Since breakfast is the first meal of the day, it must be a healthy start as it could affect one's mood or behaviour.


Dr Gorika Bansal, a paediatrician at Prime Medical Center Barsha Heights branch, said: “I am glad a study like this has been published as we often encounter children in our clinics having temper tantrums, hitting other children, behavioural issues and poor concentrations at schools which impacts their academic performance and also their social behaviours. Children who skip breakfast are more likely to have behavioural problems due to a couple of reasons."

After fasting overnight during sleep, the body requires nutrients to cope up with the high activity levels of kids, Bansal explained.

"Skipping breakfast would mean not obtaining certain nutrients — for example, those found in milk or other dairy products or fruits. This would mean low blood sugar levels leading to irritability, fatigue, poor concentration, low attention spans, reduced cognition and learning. It can also lead to the release of stress hormones like cortisol, making you feel stressed and leading to anxiety."

It can also lead to weight issues as kids may have to compensate with a heavier meal for lunch, the doctor added.

What to have for breakfast

Consuming at least milk or milk products — like porridge, yoghurt, cereals and oats in any form — and fruits like avocado, melons and berries can do wonders for children's health. These can boost kids' energies and improve concentration levels throughout the day, the doctors said.

“The best way to set ourselves up for a successful day, both mentally and physically, starts with one healthy habit: a consistent breakfast routine. The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ couldn't be truer,” Bansal said.

Dr Rania Amer, general paediatrician at Burjeeel Royal Hospital, Al Ain, added: “In my experience in the pediatric clinic, I have observed that the children who are in the habit of skipping their breakfast appear weak, dull, and non-energetic. Continued breakfast skipping may lead to nutritional deficiencies, leading to reduced academic performance and laziness in participating in physical activities."


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