Special to South Florida Times

MINNEAPOLIS (BLACK PR WIRE/BUSINESS WIRE) — The pathway to better health for teenage girls starts with the first meal of the day and when they make a good-for-me choice their odds of having a healthier body weight and lower cholesterol improve. These are the latest peer-reviewed findings summarized in Public Health Nutrition.
The analysis of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study data was funded in part by the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

The Institute followed the diets of 2,379 girls who, at the beginning of the study, were aged 9 to 10 from 1987 to 1997, of whom 51 percent, or 1,213, were African American and 1,166 were white, who lived in Berkeley, Calif., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.

Based on analysis of the girls’ food diaries, breakfast cereal eaters tended to have lower waist-to-height ratios, an indicator of healthy body weight, lower total cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.

Previous findings from the Institute cited health benefits of eating breakfast related to lower body mass index (BMI), according to findings released in 2005, and improved nutrition, higher milk consumption and increased physical activity, according to findings released in 2008.

One of the healthiest breakfast choices in the 10-year study was fortified ready-to-eat cereal, which helped boost the nutrient content in the girls’ diets.
Analyses of the study results found that ’tween and teen girls who regularly ate cereal for breakfast  relative to 24 other reported breakfast foods  were less likely to be overweight, had healthier body weights and lower cholesterol.

A recent report indicates that 24 percent of African-American girls aged 12 to 17 are overweight, compared to 15 percent of white girls.

Susan Crockett, vice president and senior technology officer of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, said looking at the results of the study, it is important to make three main points with girls and their parents or guardians: First, breakfast is a must for better health. Second, choose foods that will nourish their bodies and help jump start their day. Third, fortified cereal is a wholesome choice.

About 51 percent of girls followed in the study were African American, so there is a real purpose for reaching out directly to teen black girls to help them understand the benefits that come with having breakfast, said teen actress and singer KeKe Palmer, who is spokeswoman for the  I <3 BKFST program.
“ Starting the day right with a bowl of cereal topped with fruit, milk and a glass of orange juice is a smart choice and one that more girls need to make,” Palmer said. “I’m asking girls to pledge on Facebook to eat breakfast so they can help themselves and someone in need, too.”

Palmer is encouraging girls aged 14 to 17, to visit www.facebook.com/IHEARTBKFST as a step toward better health  and to lend a
helping hand to girls in need.

I<3BKFST, translated as I HEART BREAKFAST, is designed to appeal to and help educate teens and their parents and guardians and it borrows its name from the popular text symbol for love <3. Teens may visit Facebook.com/IHEARTBKFST, where they will first like the IHEARTBKFST page and then pledge to eat breakfast

In turn, General Mills will donate 25 cents for every pledge made through Dec. 22, up to $10,000, and a minimum donation of $5,000,  to Grace House, a foster home for girls in need in Birmingham, Ala.

“Encouraging healthier eating habits is every parent’s responsibility and, given the body of evidence supporting the benefits of breakfast and breakfast cereal as a good choice,  we’re clearly giving our girls a great advantage by reinforcing the importance of the first meal of the day,’ said Karol Watson, vice president of the Association of Black Cardiologists and an I <3 BKFST spokeswoman.