Our parents frequently told us as children that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Was this a ruse to encourage us to finish our porridge and get ready for school or is there some truth in the old wives’ tale?

Find out as this week’s Nutrition news uncovers the very latest in nutritional research.

Skipping breakfast means skipping important nutrients

Is there any truth to the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, according to one recent study published by Science Daily, there might be.

Researchers in America that analysed data on more than 30,000 adults in the US found that those who missed breakfast also missed out on crucial nutrients that otherwise weren’t consumed in substantial enough quantities in other meals during the day. It is important to note that the study isn’t suggesting that skipping breakfast in itself has a negative effect on the body but, rather, that there is a certain set of key nutrients commonly consumed at breakfast time that may otherwise be missed for the entire day when breakfast isn’t consumed.

This key nutrient set includes vitamin C in fruit, calcium in milk, and fibre and other vitamins and minerals that today’s cereals are fortified with.

Of the 15.2% of study participants who reported having skipped breakfast, the researchers found the starkest differences between the breakfast and no-breakfast groups were in levels of folate, calcium, iron, and vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin C and vitamin D. In addition to the nutrients lost through skipping breakfast, the study also found that those who skip this first meal of the day were more likely to go onto consume more calories through snacking and larger meals at lunch and dinner time.

Could zinc contribute to normal blood pressure?

In a surprise discovery reported by Medical News Today, researchers have found that zinc could have a positive effect on supporting normal blood pressure. Researchers from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Parkville, Australia, and the University of Melbourne, were investigating the link between zinc and brain health when they discovered that the essential mineral could also play an important role in managing blood pressure.

High blood pressure can lead to all sorts of complications in heart health, so managing hypertension is very important. Calcium and potassium are already known for their role in managing blood pressure but the effects of zinc have so far gone unexplored. While looking into the effects of zinc on the brain, the researchers noticed a significant drop in blood pressure in their test subjects.

The researchers found that zinc consumption had an effect on the muscles, endothelial cells, and sensory nerves together; this resulted in a reduction in the amount of calcium in the muscles, which caused the muscles to relax. This relaxation of the muscles increased blood flow and, therefore, lowered blood pressure.

While further research is needed, the findings are exciting and could explain previous theories linking zinc and blood pressure that were previously only thought to affect animals.

The role of betaine in supporting the immune system

Betaine, or trimethylglycine (TMG) as it is otherwise known, is an amino acid derivative that contributes to normal homocysteine metabolism. In addition to this, researchers now believe that Betaine may also play a role in regulating the immune system.

The study, reported by NutraIngredients, involved 29 football players who were divided into a placebo group and a group that was supplemented with betaine. The participants were studied over a 14-week period and it was found that the supplementation of betaine prevented an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines and White Blood Cell (WBC) counts. This suggests that betaine could play a role in exercise recovery in athletes and the regulation of the immune system.

While the results are promising, given the size of the test group and the limitations in their diversity, further research would be needed to establish the effects of betaine supplementation on the wider population.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.