21 March 2016: A suite of new scientific research has provided yet another reason to start the day with a bowl full of whole grain or high fibre breakfast cereal.

Results of five key studies on whole grain, fibre and breakfast consumption published this year have demonstrated significant health benefits, including a lower risk of breast cancer, reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing inflammation and cognitive decline and, weight management and obesity.

Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Director of the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum, Leigh Reeve notes breakfast cereals contribute a significant percentage of our daily whole grain and dietary fibre intakes.

“These findings add to the growing body of research on the positive effects of whole grain and fibre consumption, most notably around breast cancer risk. In Australia, 43 per cent of our whole grain intakes1 and over 10 per cent of our dietary fibre intakes come from breakfast cereals.2

“Results of these studies are also consistent with existing research that demonstrates children and adults who eat breakfast have a healthier weight than breakfast skippers.3-6 We also know that both children and adults who eat breakfast cereal regularly tend to have a lower BMI and a 12 per cent lower risk of overweight and obesity.” 5

1. Fibre intake during adolescence and early adulthood lowers risk of breast cancer in women

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health have found that US women who ate more fibre during adolescence and early adulthood have a lower risk of breast cancer.7

The study published online in Paediatrics (February, 2016) reports on the Nurses Health Study II, a large ongoing prospective cohort study of female nurses aged 25 to 42 years at enrolment in 1989.

Among women who ate more dietary fibre (15.3-24.9g/d) during early adulthood, risk of breast cancer was reduced by 12-19% compared to women who ate the least dietary fibre (12.4g/day); highest intake was associated with the greatest risk reduction. Premenopausal breast cancer risk was reduced by 24 percent and 23 percent for women with the highest fibre intakes (27.8g/d and 24g/d) compared with the lowest intakes (15.2g/d and 12.3g/d) during adolescence and early adulthood respectively.

For each additional 10g/day of fibre, during early adulthood and adolescence, overall risk of breast cancer was reduced by 13-14 percent. The authors suggest several mechanisms for the reduction in breast cancer risk including improved insulin sensitivity and decreased plasma oestrogen.

2. New Cochrane review: Fibre intake has beneficial effects on cholesterol and blood pressure

A Cochrane systematic literature review published in January 2016 found that higher dietary fibre intake reduced cholesterol levels by a mean of 0.23mmol/L and LDL cholesterol by 0.14mmol/L and significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure by 1.77mmHg.8 The review consisted of 23 randomised controlled trials with over 1,500 participants.

3. Lower intake of whole grains associated with higher inflammatory markers and faster cognitive decline

New research from the UK has found that a dietary pattern which includes a lower intake of whole grains and a higher intake of red and processed meat, peas, legumes and fried food is associated with higher inflammatory markers and faster cognitive decline at older ages.9

The study, published online in Clinical Nutrition (February, 2016), analysed data from 5,083 Civil Servants aged 45-79 and found the “Inflammatory Dietary Pattern” (IDP) was significantly correlated with elevated IL-6, a marker of inflammation. Compared to the lowest tertile, those in the highest tertile for IDP score experienced faster cognitive decline in reasoning over a 10-year follow-up.

4. Eating breakfast has beneficial effects for obese adults

New research from the University of Bath (UK) has demonstrated beneficial effects of eating in the morning for obese adults.10  Those who consumed breakfast (“breakfast” group) increased their physical activity energy expenditure by a mean of 188 kcal/d during the morning, and had improved insulin sensitivity compared to the “fasting” group. Skipping breakfast did not facilitate weight loss and there were no significant differences in weight change between the two groups.

Energy intake was not significantly different with those eating in the morning compared with those who fasted, suggesting that morning fasting may result in greater energy intake later in the day.

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February, 2016) reports on a randomised controlled trial investigating the links between breakfast habits and components of energy balance in twenty-three free living, weight-stable obese adults with a mean age of 44 years.

Participants were randomly assigned to daily breakfast (≥700kcal before 1100hrs) or fasting (0kcal before 1200hrs) for six weeks.

5. Eating breakfast may play a role in preventing child and adolescent obesity

A new Tufts University review has added support for a possible protective role of breakfast consumption in preventing excess adiposity during childhood and adolescence in industrialised countries.11 The study published online in Pediatric Obesity (February, 2016) synthesised results from twelve studies from Europe, the USA, Australia and China.

Most (10) studies were longitudinal observational studies, with 254-68,606 children aged 2.1-16 years at baseline and 1-27 years follow-up. Eight out of the 10 longitudinal studies reported inverse associations between breakfast consumption and excess adiposity. Two additional studies reported significant protective effects from breakfast consumption and overweight or obesity.



  1. Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC), Australians at Risk; 2014 Grains & Legumes Consumption & Attitudinal Study,
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Canberra: ABS; 2014.
  3. Haines PS, Guilkey DK, Popkin B. Trends in breakfast consumption of US adults between 1965 and 1991. J Am Diet Assoc 1996; 96:5: 464-470.
  4. Wolfe WS, Campbell CC, Frongillo EA, Haas JD, Melnik TA. Overweight schoolchildren in New York State: Prevalence and characteristics. Am J Pub Health 1994; 84:5: 807-813.
  5. Williams PG. The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base. Adv Nutr 2014; 5:636S-673S.
  6. National Health and Nutrition Examinations Survey Data (2003-2006). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Hyattville, MD. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; data for boys and girls 6-17 years of age.
  7. Farvid, MS, Eliassen, AH, Cho, E, Liao, X, Chen, WY, Willett, WC. Dietary fiber intake in young adults and breast cancer risk. Pediatrics Feb 1. pii: peds.2015-1226. [Epub ahead of print].
  8. Hartley L, May MD, Loveman E, Colquitt JL, Rees K. Dietary fibre for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jan 7;1:CD011472. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011472.pub2.
  9. Ozawa M, Shipley M, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A, Brunner EJ. Dietary pattern, inflammation and cognitive decline: The Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan 29. pii: S0261-5614(16)00035-2. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2016.01.013. [Epub ahead of print].
  10. Chowdhury EA, Richardson JD, Holman GD, Tsintzas K, Thompson D, Betts JA. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Feb 10. pii: ajcn122044. [Epub ahead of print].
  11. Blondin SA, Anzman-Frasca S, Djang HC, Economos CD. Breakfast consumption and adiposity among children and adolescents: an updated review of the literature. Pediatr Obes. 2016 Feb 4. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12082. [Epub ahead of print].
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