The teenagers who ate breakfast took on more calories than those who did not, but also burnt more off / Alamy

Eating breakfast helps teenagers lose weight, a survey of eating habits in the United States has found.

The study showed that those who tuck in to a healthy breakfast – and therefore end up with a higher calorie intake – still tend to have a lower body mass index than those who skip the first meal of the day.

The research was conducted at the University of Minnesota and published in the Paediatrics journal.

Dr Mark Pereira, who led the research, admitted the study could paint a confusing picture for those who believe that the less you eat the less you weigh.

"It may seem counterintuitive," he said. "But while they ate more calories, they did more to burn those off, and that may be because those who ate breakfast did not feel so lethargic."

Dr Peraira added that even cooked breakfasts were better than missing out on food altogether. "While it's best to go for a healthy option – a wholegrain cereal for instance – the evidence does seem to suggest that eating anything is better than eating nothing."

The research is one of a number of recent studies that give credence to the theory that breakfast is not only a crucial component of a healthy diet but also encourages the body to stay toned.

A recent French study found that men and women who ate breakfast at least 10 out of 12 days tended to have lower waist to hip ratios than those that who did not. And a study of nearly 7,000 middle-aged adults in Norfolk revealed that those who ate the most in the morning put the least amount of weight on overall.

Anna Denny, a nutritional scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "There have been quite a few studies now that show eating breakfast is a crucial part of keeping a healthy weight. The key concept is those who eat breakfast tend to be less likely to snack on high-fat foods before the lunch period and therefore have a much healthier diet."

Dr Pereira said: "This study clearly supports what other studies have shown: kids who skip breakfast tend to gain more weight, and therefore would be at a higher risk for obesity."

Skipping breakfast is one of the most common approaches to dieting used by those who want to lose weight, particularly among teenage girls.

In 2003 the Schools Health Education Trust interviewed 300,000 people who had been to school since 1983 and discovered that more and more young girls go to school on an empty stomach.

About a third of 12 to 15-year-old girls skipped breakfast, up from 17 per cent in 1983 whilst among girls aged 15 to 16 the figures went from 24 per cent in 1983 to 41 per cent.

A YouGov poll in January 2007, meanwhile, discovered that half of the UK population does not eat breakfast every day.

Healthy breakfasts

Porridge with dried fruit

Oats and dried fruit provide slow-release energy during the day as well as warming you up on a cold morning.

Cereal and semi-skimmed milk

Low fat mueslis with no added salt or sugars and high fibre whole grain cereals are best.

Poached egg on wholemeal bread

Eggs are full of nutrients and only contain 75 calories each if boiled or poached. Wholemeal bread is much better for you than white.

Fruit and yoghurt

Fresh fruit is a good way to provide yourself with slow- release energy throughout the morning and probiotic yoghurt eases digestion.

Grilled breakfast

There's nothing wrong with a cooked breakfast as long as you avoid frying. Trim the bacon rind and add a grilled tomato or glass of juice to keep the fruit intake up.

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