Students are told growing up that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but is that still valid among college students today?
Marketed research company NPD Group found in a study conducted with 27,179 college-aged students in 2011 that one out of 10 U.S college-aged consumers didn’t start their day with breakfast. Scientist argue that these eating habits are associated with multiple risk factors.
Michael D. Barnes, Ph.D., found in a study involving 200 private university students that those students who ate breakfast the day of exams received higher scores than those who didn’t. When Marla McBride, Director of Student Health Services at Cypress College, was asked how many of her student patients on campus were eating a healthy breakfast and how it affected their academic and social skills, McBride stated that “everything is interrelated,” and roughly estimated one third of them aren’t having a balanced breakfast.
McBride emphasized the consequences of breakfast decisions among students, emphasizing that sugary breakfast cereals or snacks are an inefficient source of fuel. “Your body feels better when you eat better,” McBride said, adding that protein is proven to be a longer lasting fuel and better for the immune system, and recommends at least 20 grams of protein being part of daily breakfasts. McBride also chimed in on coffee and other caffeinated beverages, explaining their diuretic effect, recommending a cup of water to compensate for every cup of coffee.
When asked if they ate breakfast either often, frequently, or not often, 10 students responded with polarized responses. Six out of ten students responded not often, two responded frequently, and two responded often.
Those students who didn’t have breakfast often stated that there simply isn’t enough time in the morning for them to eat or that they’d skip breakfast for sleep instead. One of these students, Cypress College student Damien Estrella, 19, said “I eat breakfast rarely…depends on the day and when I wake up.” Randy Navarro, 22, said “[I] borderline never have breakfast, because I usually sleep all morning. If it wasn’t for my sleeping habits I would have breakfast.”
CC student Fernando Valencia, 21, one of the students who ate breakfast frequently, stated that, “two days out of the week I have school early morning and I don’t have time to eat”, but insists on having the basics- eggs, toast, orange juice, oatmeal, and black tea- at least five days a week.
Angelo Munoz, 21, Nursing, one of the two students that has breakfast every single morning, said it’s largely impart to his strict schedule. “When I didn’t have a set schedule I didn’t really eat breakfast due to me waking up so late.”
The effects breakfast has on college students can be subtle at first glance, but McBride stated that these effects can have dramatic effects on the body, with students who skip breakfast risking weight gain as the body is forced to conserve calories instead of burning them. In more serious cases, even muscle deterioration can occur. Endocrinologist Christian J. Gastelum also found that the metabolic changes that the body endures after a prolonged fasting period produced plaque buildup in the arteries, a factor in increased vulnerability to heart attacks.
McBride stressed the importance of establishing healthy eating habits, imploring students to, “start good habits early because the habits you start early will carry.”