A nationwide survey conducted between 2010 and 2011 found that 9.8% of children aged six months to 12 years were overweight, while 11.8% were obese.
According to the 2012 Malaysia School-Based Nutrition Survey (MSNS), 14.6% of children between the ages of 10 and 17 years were overweight, while 12.3% were obese.
As such, researchers at the Institute for Medical Research, Cereal Partners Worldwide, Thielecke Consulting, and Singapore's Nestlé R&D Centre, as well as several Malaysian universities, conducted a nationwide cross-sectional study to determine the association between breakfast consumption and body weight status among primary and secondary school students in Malaysia.
Less breakfast, more weight
They recruited 5,332 primary school children aged six to 12 and 3,000 secondary school children aged 13 to 17, and measured their height, weight, and BMI-for-age. Their socio-demographic backgrounds, physical activity levels and breakfast habits were assessed via questionnaires.
They then categorised the children according to three definitions of breakfast frequency: breakfast skippers (did not eat breakfast more than twice a week), irregular breakfast eaters (ate breakfast three to four days a week), and regular breakfast eaters (ate breakfast five or more days a week).
Among the primary school boys and secondary school girls, the breakfast skippers were more likely to be overweight or obese (43.9% of the boys and 30.5% of the girls) than regular breakfast eaters (31.2% of the boys and 22.7% of the girls).
When it came to both male and female primary school students, only the boys who skipped breakfast had a higher mean BMI-for-age z-score than regular breakfast eaters; they were 1.71 times more likely to be overweight and obese, but both primary and secondary girls tended to face a lower risk.
Boys at risk
The researchers wrote that the results coincided with that of two previous nationwide studies, and that they'd observed a high incidence of breakfast-skipping among both primary and secondary school students.
They added that skipping breakfast three or more days a week was linked to a higher risk of being overweight or obese among both primary and secondary school children in Malaysia — regardless of physical activity levels and socioeconomic status — with the risk highest among primary school boys.
They then concluded: "Considering that 10% of primary school children and 16% of secondary school children were breakfast skippers, the potential implications to public health could be significant.
"However, as this study cannot infer a causal relationship between breakfast-skipping and body weight, further studies with a longitudinal or interventional design are urgently needed to corroborate these findings."
Source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition
"Breakfast consumption among Malaysian primary and secondary school children and relationship with body weight status – Findings from the MyBreakfast Study"
Authors: E Siong Tee, et al.