Are Malaysian children eating well?

Are Malaysian children eating well?

A fascinating study on the breakfast eating habits of Malaysian children reveals findings that may surprise you.

Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day and that is a fact as proven by many studies conducted by medical researchers. Enjoying a healthy breakfast benefits people of all ages, from the very young to the old. Breakfast consumption is associated with both physical and psychological gains such as a healthier body weight, better nutrient profiles and having better psychological functions.

Although the benefits of breakfast are well-known, sometimes, it is easy to forget this essential meal especially if you’re caught up with the hustle and bustle of life. However, it is important to know that skipping breakfast affects everyone — including children. For instance, not eating your breakfast everyday can lead to a higher body mass and even obesity.

The Malaysian way

You may be surprised to learn that the increasing number of obese and overweight adults and children in Malaysia is related, in part, to their breakfast eating habits! The nationwide MyBreakfast Study initiated by Nutrition Society of Malaysia, aimed at finding out the breakfast eating habits of Malaysian children and its possible impact. Data was collected between April and October 2013 and revealed in November 2015 at the MyBreakfast Study of School Children Symposium.

In this study, breakfast was considered to be the first meal after an overnight sleep It was defined as the meal that is eaten anytime before 10 in the morning on weekdays and 11 in the morning on weekends. A total of 8,705 children aged 6 to seventeen participated in this in depth study. 5,581 children were from primary school and 3,124 children were from secondary school.  The study obtained results from both urban and rural areas. The study included children of various ethnicities such as Malay, Chinese, Indian and Bumiputera.

Here are fascinating findings of the MyBreakfast Study:

Nutritional status

1 in 4 children were either overweight or obese

More boys were overweight or obese

The prevalence of obesity and overweight were similar among primary and secondary school children:

Secondary school: 28. 8 %; Primary school: 28. 3 %

Physical activity

1 in 3 school children had low physical activity

Almost 60 % of secondary school and 33 % of primary schoolgirls had lower physical activity levels than boys

The link between breakfast intake and bodyweight status

1 in 4 children skipped breakfast

More girls skipped breakfast than boys: Girls: 26.4 %; Boys: 22.5 %

Those who skipped breakfast,  divided by income group

Children whose fathers had primary education and below were more likely to skip breakfast compared to those whose fathers had secondary and tertiary education.

Breakfast skippers were 1.34 times more likely to be overweight or obese

body overweight03

Breakfast choices

The 5 most common food choices:

  • Bread
  • Eggs

  • Chicken/meat

  • Nasi lemak

  • Fried rice

The 5 most common beverage choices:

  • Malted beverage

  • Tea/coffee

  • UHT/powdered milk

  • Fruit drink/cordial

Only 1 in 4 primary school children and 1 in 5 secondary school children consumed wholegrain products such as cereal and bread

wholegain

*Wholegrain consumption is linked to improved nutrient intake and diet quality

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