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Consequences and Potential Causes of Worldwide Adolescents Skipping Breakfast:
A Literature Review
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Consequences of skipping breakfast

Among the research articles reviewed, three main categories of consequences associated with adolescent skipping breakfast can be found out: physical health, mental and cognitive health, as well as academic performance.

Physical health - Many studies on adolescent breakfast consumption have shown that skipping breakfast may lead to adverse physical health outcomes in adolescents. Previous studies have indicated that breakfast skippers were more likely to have higher body mass index (BMI). A study among 2216 adolescents illustrated that breakfast frequency was inversely related to BMI despite all confounding factors and dietary factors like socioeconomic status, breakfast schedule, and ingredients (Timlin et al, 2008). Researchers from the U.K. did a study with 16,936 children of age 3, 5, 7, and 11, and reported that skipping breakfast might be one important factor to cause high BMI (Kelly et al, 2016). The Polish study with 1566 students aged between 11-13 also supported that students who skipped breakfast and a meal at school were more likely to have higher general and central adiposity, increasing their risk of becoming overweight or obese (Wadolowska et al, 2019).

Besides increased BMI and risk of obesity, previous studies have also explored other physical health outcomes on adolescents as consequences of skipping breakfast. A cross-sectional study in China which conducted questionnaires and measurements of physical fitness (e.g. standing long jump, 50-meter run) to 1849 students aged 15.53±1.80 have concluded that skipping breakfast could decrease the physical fitness levels among school-aged students, especially among boys (Hu et al, 2020). A group of Croatian researchers found out that breakfast consumption was inversely associated with body adiposity but only in boys that were physically active (Sila et al, 2019).

Another example of physical health outcomes of breakfast consumption is a Japanese study which indicated that skipping breakfast might lead to deficiencies of many nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin C, Ca, Fe, Zn and K among female junior high school students (Matsumoto et al, 2020). An Egyptian study on children’s hydration indicated that students who skipped breakfast were more likely to become dehydrated due to decreased water intake (Gouda et al, 2015). In addition, A research focused on sleep duration among Greek children clarified that many of Greek children and adolescents were having insufficient sleeping time, and it was significantly associated with unhealthy dietary habits including skipping breakfast (Tambalis et al, 2018).

Mental and Cognitive health - Skipping breakfast may also lead to mental health and cognitive problems for adolescents. For instance, a group of Spanish researchers recruited 527 students from age 12 to 17 and found that breakfast eaters had better health related quality of life (HRQOL) and were less sensitive to stress and depression (Ferrer-Cascales et al, 2018). They also found that among teenagers who consumed breakfast, eating a high-quality breakfast (contained grain-based products, dairy products, and little commercially baked goods) was helpful in improving HRQOL and releasing stress and depression symptoms, compared to those who consumed a poor-quality breakfast. Another study in Germany shows that having breakfast has positive short-term effects on cognitive functioning and self-reported alertness among high school students (Widenhorn-Muller et al, 2008). One research among Chinese college students elaborates that skipping breakfast is directly associated with depressive symptoms among college students (Ren et al, 2020). In addition, a study took place in universities in Mexico found out that a poor-quality breakfast has negative effects on cognitive interference (basic ability of executive functions that control automatic responses) (Sámano et al, 2019).

Academic performance - Furthermore, skipping breakfast may impact students’ academic performance. In a research in the U.S (Hearst et al, 2019), The researchers examined breakfast's effect on GPA and if intervention effectiveness differed by social-economic status (SES). The result manifested that increasing breakfast consumption may have a positive effect on GPA particularly for low resource students in rural groups. One study in Saudi Arabia shows that skipping breakfast and dinner do not significantly affect GPA among students (Mirghani et al, 2019). However, the methodological limitations of their survey made these results less valid for interpretation. 


Factors Contributing to Skipping Breakfast

There can be various reasons for teenagers to skip breakfast as they all come from different backgrounds. A study in Korea found out that high school students who spent more time on smartphones during weekdays were more likely to skip breakfast. They also found that lack of sleep time, depression, and poor academic performance might be potential reasons for skipping breakfast (Lee et al, 2020). A study in the U.S on hunger among 1063 participants between 2.5-17 years old stated that the reasons for skipping breakfast or meals might be poverty and lack of food resources (Weinreb et al, 2002). Another research study in China reported that the reasons for skipping breakfast might include gender, class years of education, monthly expenses, faculty, appetite, sleep quality, and learning process (Sun et al, 2013).



Skipping breakfast is a very prevalent problem among teenagers worldwide. Skipping breakfast might cause adverse physical and mental health outcomes, and it can also negatively affect students’ academic performance. Factors that have been associated with skipping breakfast among teenagers include, but not limited to, overuse of smartphones, lack of sleep duration, depression, and monthly expenses. As a result, Adolescents should eat breakfast regularly and eat high-quality breakfast to keep and improve both their mental and physical health. To achieve this goal, teenagers should use smartphones properly, have a good sleep time and quality, and get proper treatment for those teenagers who have depression.


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Ferrer-Cascales, R., Sánchez-SanSegundo, M., Ruiz-Robledillo, N., Albaladejo-Blázquez, N., Laguna-Pérez, A., & Zaragoza-Martí, A. (2018, August 19). Eat or Skip Breakfast? The Important Role of Breakfast Quality for Health-Related Quality of Life, Stress and Depression in Spanish Adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 15(8): 1781. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15081781. 

Gouda, Z., Zarea, M., El-Hennawy, U., Viltard, M., Constant, F., Hawili, N., & Friedlander, G. (2015, February 1). High Prevalence of Morning Hydration Deficit in Egyptian Schoolchildren. Pediatrics. 135 (Supplement 1) S11-S12; doi:

Hearst, M. O., Jimbo-Llapa, F., Grannon, K., Wang, Q., Nanney, M. S., & Caspi, C. E. (2019). Breakfast Is Brain Food? The Effect on Grade Point Average of a Rural Group Randomized Program to Promote School Breakfast. The Journal of School Health. 89(9):715-721. doi: 10.1111/josh.12810. 

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Matsumoto, M., Hatamoto, Y., Sakamoto, A., Masumoto, A., & Ikemoto, S. (2020). Breakfast skipping is related to inadequacy of vitamin and mineral intakes among Japanese female junior high school students: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Nutritional Science. 9:e9. doi: 10.1017/jns.2019.44.

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Sámano, R., Hernández-Chávez, C., Chico-Barba, G., Córdova-Barrios, A., Morales-Del-Olmo, M., Sordo-Figuero, H., Hernández, M., Merino-Palacios, C., Cervantes-Zamora, L., & Martínez-Rojano, H. (2019). Breakfast Nutritional Quality and Cognitive Interference in University Students from Mexico City. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 16(15):2671. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16152671.

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Sun, J., Yi, H., Liu, Z., Wu, Y., Bian, J., Wu, Y., Eshita, Y., Li, G., Zhang, Q., & Yang, Y. (2013, January 17). Factors associated with skipping breakfast among Inner Mongolia medical students in China. BMC Public Health. 13:42. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-42.

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