19 May 2016: A first-ever scientific analysis of different types of breakfast cereals and their impact on the health of Australians has found positive benefits for body weight and nutrition, regardless of the type of cereal and its sugar content.
The new analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from the Australian Health Survey (AHS) found that when compared to people who ate other breakfasts, Australians who ate breakfast cereals had:
- the same daily energy intake (kilojoules) but significantly higher intakes of iron, calcium, fibre, folate and magnesium;
- lower intakes of sodium; and
- were more likely to meet nutrient needs.
The research also found that adults who ate breakfast cereals had slimmer waists and were more likely to be a healthy weight than people who ate other breakfasts.
Dr Flavia Fayet-Moore, Director of Nutrition Research Australia led the analysis and said the results will challenge perceptions about breakfast cereals.
“This is the first time we have Australian data on the health impacts of different types of breakfast cereals. It shows consistent positive benefits regardless of whether Australians ate ready-to-eat cereals, muesli or oats and whether the cereals were minimally pre-sweetened (less than 15g sugar/100g) or pre-sweetened breakfast cereal (15g sugar/100g or more).”
“It’s a result that even surprised us,” said Dr Fayet-Moore.
According to the ABS data, total sugars in breakfast cereals account for less than two per cent of total energy (kilojoules) in the diets of Australians who consume it.
“Our analysis of Australian data adds to the large body of evidence that breakfast cereals make an important contribution to nutrient intakes, particularly for dietary fibre, calcium and iron- nutrients of which Australians are not getting enough.”
“While more than 80% of breakfast cereal consumers had milk at breakfast, adding significantly to the nutritional quality of the meal, one of the most interesting findings in these data is the amount of nutrients that come from the breakfast cereal itself,” said Dr Fayet-Moore. “For instance, breakfast cereals were a large contributor of cereal fibre in the diet, which is particularly essential for gut health and preventing chronic diseases.”
Unfortunately, there has been a significant drop in consumption of core grain foods among Australians, largely driven by weight loss fads.2
“Australians need to be cautious of misinformation to ensure they make smart choices for good health,” said Dr Fayet-Moore. “It is important they choose nutrient-dense breakfast cereals and take advantage of one of the most significant sources of cereal fibre in our diet.”
There are also new data on the nutritional quality of breakfast cereals in Australia following a recent audit of the category conducted by the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC).
“The nutrition credentials of the Australian breakfast cereal category are impressive. There are more than 420 breakfast cereals for Australians to choose from. More than half carry the Health Star Rating and the majority (82 per cent) are rated 4-5 stars,3“ said Chris Cashman, GLNC’s Nutrition Program Manager.
“The data also confirms the important role of the breakfast cereal category as a leading source of whole grains and dietary fibre in the Australian diet – with 60% of breakfast cereals classified as high in whole grains and 45% high in fibre.”
The GLNC audit revealed that 95% of the category meets the Australian government’s benchmark for sodium set at 400mg per 100g or less and the majority of breakfast cereals in Australia (63%) have less than two teaspoons of total sugars in a 40g serve.
“While we do need to be mindful of overall sugars intake, Australians shouldn’t let an obsession with sugars turn them away from nutrient-rich core grain foods like breakfast cereals,” added Mr Cashman.
Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson, Lisa Renn, APD explains that this is one of the most common concerns from clients she sees in her practice.
“People are confused; so often we see Australians limiting nutritious foods because they are concerned about single nutrients like sugar. It’s our role as health professionals to guide them through health information (and misinformation) to reassure them that nutrient dense foods such as breakfast cereals are good choices for them and their families,” said Ms Renn.
The new data was launched on 19 May 2016 at the Dietitians Association of Australia National Conference. A summary report ‘Bowled Over At Breakfast: New Australian data on breakfast cereal types and their impact on nutrient intake and body weight’ is now available at www.cereal4brekkie.org.
Nutrition Research Australia’s analysis was funded by a research grant from the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum (ABCMF).
The data was launched at the 33rd National Conference of the Dietitians Association of Australia in Melbourne on 19 May 2016. Media release jointly issued by DAA and ABCMF. ABCMF is a DAA corporate partner.
- Nutrition Research Australia, Breakfast and Breakfast Cereal Consumption Among Australians – A secondary analysis of the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, Sydney, February 2016
- Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, Consumption Attitude Study, 2014
- Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, Australian Breakfast Cereal Audit, Sydney, December 2015