Professor: Why you mustn’t force children to eat their breakfast
YOU’VE probably heard it time and time again: children must eat breakfast to learn well and succeed at school.
But one academic is challenging this longheld belief. In fact, Professor Terence Kealey says if your child doesn’t want to eat breakfast, you shouldn’t force them.
The biochemist, who was formerly an academic at Cambridge University, claims that studies which show children getting better exam results after being given breakfast at school are misleading.
He added that the free breakfasts given to pupils by some schools in deprived areas do not help students’ brain function, but rather reduces truancy rates.
Asked what parents should do about giving a child breakfast, he said: ‘I would let the kids decide for themselves if they want breakfast. Lots of kids don’t want to eat breakfast. Then fine! If you’re worried, give them an apple or something, but the idea that you should force them to eat breakfast is a form of child abuse.’
But his advice to shun the meal doesn’t just apply to children. He believes that eating in the morning also puts adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Professor Kealey, also a former vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, claims he managed to reverse his own type 2 diabetes after he stopped eating breakfast.
He now believes that it is a dangerous meal, because it increases blood glucose levels when they are already very high.
His theory is that the human body is naturally nauseous in the morning because of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, and that eating breakfast will just encourage us to eat more during the day. He also said that most studies on breakfast have been ‘funded either by Kellogg’s or General Mills’ and are biased.
Professor Kealey made his claims, which fly in the face of perceived wisdom, at the Oxford Literary Festival on Thursday.
He said: ‘There is a scientific community that for a hundred years has determined we should all be eating breakfast, and in a sense, it has fooled itself as much as fooled anyone else in the data it has collected.’
However, paediatric nutritionist Jennifer Rosborough was sceptical of the academic’s claims. She said: ‘Our recommendation is that it is helpful to eat breakfast.
‘Our point of view is that it helps people be a healthier weight because it stops them from becoming over-hungry throughout the day. If what [Professor Kealey] is saying is true, it’s the first I’ve heard of it.’
But she added: ‘I don’t think you should force children to eat breakfast.’