By now, even kids know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A new study provides yet another ringing endorsement for starting the day with that old breakfast staple, cereal: higher cereal intake during a girl’s childhood can directly affect her body weight and fat levels later in life.

According to the October 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers studied more than 2,300 girls in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. From age 11.5 until they reached 18.6 years of age, the girls were measured six times for specific parameters, such as percent body fat and waist-to-hip ratio.

By their late teens, the girls who ate cereal on a greater percentage of days during childhood had lower body fat content and lower total cholesterol levels. They were also more likely than the other girls to exhibit high levels of physical activity and to spend less time watching television.

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