Protein-rich breakfast prevents 'unhealthy snacking' later: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Protein-rich breakfast prevents 'unhealthy snacking' later
A protein-rich breakfast can significantly improve appetite control and help to reduce unhealthy snacking in the evening, new research says.

Eating a breakfast rich in protein significantly improves appetite control and reduces unhealthy snacking on high-fat or high-sugar foods in the evening, according to the first ever study to the impact of breakfast consumption on daily appetite and evening snacking in young people.

Led by Professor Heather Leidy from the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, the research shows that consumption of high-protein breakfasts leads to increased satiety - of feelings of fullness - along with reductions in brain activity that is responsible for controlling food cravings.

The high-protein breakfast also reduced evening snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods compared to a normal protein breakfast from ready-to-eat cereal was consumed or when breakfast was skipped, Leidy said - adding that such a shift in dietary habits could help to battle rising levels of obesity.

"Eating a protein-rich breakfast impacts the drive to eat later in the day, when people are more likely to consume high-fat or high-sugar snacks,"​ said Leidy.

"These data suggest that eating a protein-rich breakfast is one potential strategy to prevent overeating and improve diet quality by replacing unhealthy snacks with high quality breakfast foods."

Research details

Leidy and her team studied 20 overweight or obese adolescent females aged between 18 and 20. Participants were split to either skip breakfast, consume a high-protein breakfast consisting of eggs and lean beef, or to eat a normal-protein breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal. The breakfasts consisted of 350 calories and were matched for dietary fat, fibre, sugar and energy density.

The participants completed questionnaires and provided blood samples throughout the day. Prior to dinner, a brain scan using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was performed to track brain signals that control food motivation and reward-driven eating, explained the research team.

The team found that those consuming breakfast had increased daily fullness compared with those that skipped - with those eating a high-protein breakfast showing greater increases than did the normal protein breakfast.

High-protein (HP), but not the normal protein (NP) breakfast was also shown to reduce daily ghrelin levels and increase daily peptide YY concentrations compared with skipping breakfast (BS).Both meals also reduced pre-dinner brain activation of the amygdala, hippocampal, and midfrontal corticolimbic regions, Leidy and her team found.

The high-protein breakfast led to additional reductions in hippocampal and parahippocampal activation compared with NP, and also reduced evening snacking of high-fat foods.

"Only the HP breakfast led to further alterations in these signals and reduced evening snacking compared with BS, although no differences in daily energy intake were observed,"​ concluded Leidy and her colleagues.

"These data suggest that the addition of breakfast, particularly one rich in protein, might be a useful strategy to improve satiety, reduce food motivation and reward, and improve diet quality in overweight or obese teenage girls."

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ 
Volume 97, Issue 4, Pages 677-88, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.053116
"Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, "breakfast-skipping," late-adolescent girls."
Authors: Leidy HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM, Hoertel HA.

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