A visual analysis of the behavioural signature of eating: the case of breakfast

  • K. Villinger
  • D.R. Wahl
  • G. Sproesser
  • H.T. Schupp
  • B. Renner


Background: Previous research examining the relationship between breakfast consumption and health-related outcomes revealed ambiguous findings. It is possible that the inconsistent findings are in part due to the assessment of breakfast consumption, which was measured in previous research at the aggregate level. Here, breakfast consumption was measured in more detail focusing on the individual episode considering dimensions of frequency, point in time, duration and individual variation in these dimensions. Accordingly, the present study examined the behavioural signature of breakfast consumption in detail and determined the relation with health-related outcomes, i.e., blood parameters or BMI. Methods: An Ecological Momentary Assessment was used to collect data of individual eating episodes of 99 adults (20- 86 years old) over the course of eight consecutive days. To analyse data, visual analysis as well as correlations and a hierarchical multilevel regression were used. Findings: In total, 727 breakfast meals were reported. A distinct peak of breakfast consumption was displayed between 7am and 10am, with a similar pattern between days across individuals. Analysis on an individual level revealed pronounced inter- and intraindividual differences on the different dimensions of breakfast behaviour. No significant association between breakfast consumption and health-related outcomes was found. Discussion: Capturing breakfast consumption in its natural context reveals large variations within and between individuals. This complexity may complicate the relationship between breakfast consumption and health-related outcomes.
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