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DAA Shares New Research On Sugar In Breakfast Cereals

New research bowls over sugar spin 

A new analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data has revealed that regardless of sugars content or cereal type, eating breakfast cereal is linked with lower BMI, slimmer waists and better nutrition.

A brimming bowl of nutrients 

While brekkie cereal eaters (be it ready-to-eat, muesli, or oats) ate the same number of kilojoules in a day, they had far better nutrition than other breakfast eaters. Adults got 28% more iron, 22% more calcium, 19% more fibre and 13% more magnesium, with 13% less sodium and 7% less saturated fat.

Don’t waist your brekkie

Those who started the day with a bowl of breakfast cereal had 1cm slimmer waists than those who ate other breakfasts and 2cm slimmer than those who skipped breakfast all together. Brekkie cereal eaters were also more likely to have a healthy weight and meet nutrient targets.

Good for the gut

Breakfast cereals are one of Australia’s leading sources of whole grains and dietary fibre for Australians, which are particularly important for gut health and preventing chronic diseases. 60% of brekkie cereals are classified as high in whole grains and 45% high in fibre.

Putting sugar in perspective

Did you know the total sugars from breakfast cereals make up less than 2% of the daily kilojoules of breakfast cereal eaters? So when you weigh this up with all the extra fibre, vitamins and minerals you get, brekkie cereal is an easy choice.

Take another look

The breakfast cereal aisle has more than 420 options for Australians – more than half of these have the Health Star Rating and the majority (82%) are rated 4 to 5 stars.

Below is a summary of key research findings from a new analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australian Health Survey data[1] and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council’s 2016 breakfast cereals category audit[2].

 What’s for breakfast?

• Breakfast cereals are a popular choice – 41% of adults and 45% of children ate breakfast cereals at breakfast and the average portion size was 42g.

• The most popular breakfast cereals were ready-to-eat cereals, wheat-based cereals (whole wheat biscuits, puffs and flakes, and bran cereals), followed by oat-based porridge styles, and mixed grain cereals with fruit and/or nuts (muesli or mixed grain flakes).

• Most Australians (62%) ate minimally pre-sweetened breakfast cereals – 63% adults and 60% children.

• Breakfast cereal consumers had five times the milk intake at breakfast than people who ate other breakfasts (155mL vs 31mL).

• The most common foods eaten by people who did not eat breakfast cereals (47% of adults and 46% of children) were bread, milk, sugar/honey/syrups, coffee/tea and margarine.

People who ate breakfast cereal have more nutritious diets, and lower sodium compared to people who ate other breakfasts

• Australian adults who ate breakfast cereals had 28% higher iron intakes, 22% higher calcium intakes, 19% higher fibre intakes, 17% higher folate intakes and 13% higher magnesium intakes.

They also had 13% lower sodium intakes

• Australian children who ate breakfast cereals had 32% higher iron intakes, 23% higher calcium intakes, 15% higher fibre intakes, 11% higher folate intakes and 11% higher magnesium intakes. They also had 9% lower sodium intakes.

• Australians who ate breakfast cereals were more likely to meet nutrient needs (Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) or Adequate Intake (AI)), including 37% more likely to meet both fibre and calcium requirements.

No difference in energy intake while having slightly higher total sugars compared to people who ate other breakfasts

• Australians who ate breakfast cereals had the same daily energy (kilojoules) intake.

• Adults and children who ate breakfast cereal had slightly higher daily total sugars intakes (9% for adults and 7% for children) over the day, including naturally occurring sugars (e.g. from milk and fruit).

• The total sugars in breakfast cereals accounted for less than two percent of total energy (kilojoules) in the diets of Australians who ate it.

Adults who ate breakfast cereals were slimmer

• Adults who ate breakfast cereals had slimmer waists – an average of 2cm slimmer than breakfast skippers and 1cm slimmer than people who had other breakfasts.

• Adults were more likely to be a healthy weight. Adult breakfast cereal consumers had the highest prevalence of normal weight, while breakfast skippers had the highest prevalence of obesity.

Consistent benefits regardless of type of breakfast cereal

• The benefits for breakfast cereals were consistent whether Australians ate ready-to-eat cereals, muesli or oats and whether the breakfast cereals were minimally pre-sweetened (less than 15g sugars/100g) or pre-sweetened breakfast cereals (15g sugars/100g or more).

The category has a strong nutritional offering. There are now more than 420 breakfast cereals for Australians to choose from.

The Australian breakfast cereals category has strong nutrition credentials:

• Half carry the Health Star Rating and 82% of those have 4-5 stars

• 60% are classified as high in whole grains

• 45% are high in fibre

• 95% meet the Australian government’s benchmark for sodium

• 63% have less than two teaspoons of total sugars in a 40g serve


1. Nutrition Research Australia, Breakfast and Breakfast Cereal Consumption Among Australians – A secondary analysis of the 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, Sydney, February 2016

2. Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC). GLNC 2015-16 Grains and Legumes Product Audit: 2016

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