More grab-and-go, high-protein breakfast items needed to fight chronic diseases, researcher says

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

More high-protein breakfast items needed to fight chronic diseases
New research showing high protein breakfasts can prevent weight gain, curb hunger pangs and stabilize glucose levels reveals unmet needs in the marketplace and opportunities for packaged food manufacturers, according to the lead investigator. 

Overweight teenagers who consumed 35 grams of protein at breakfast daily for 12 weeks had more stable blood glucose levels, which were less likely to spike or stay in the danger zone for long periods, than teenagers who ate only 13 grams of protein at breakfast or who skipped the meal entirely, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity in July​. 

More recently released findings from the same study also show that the teenagers who ate the high protein breakfast consumed about 400 fewer calories and lost body fat mass, while those who ate the normal-protein breakfast ate more than they did at baseline, according to research published Aug. 12 in the journal Obesity​.

The findings are significant because as many as 60% of adolescents skip breakfast three to four times a week, a practice that is associated with weight gain and could put them at risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, Heather Leidy, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, told FoodNavigator-USA.

She added the results also are notable because they show that simply eating breakfast is not enough to address these health risks. Rather, what consumers eat for breakfast matters, she said.

Specifically, she noted, the current research supports previous analysis she and others have done that suggest these health benefits are achievable only if at least 25-35 grams of protein are at one time. Less than this threshold and the satiety and protein synthesis desired are less likely to occur, she said.

What this means for manufacturers

For food manufacturers, the study reveals a need for high protein, on-the-go breakfasts, which are not currently available, Leidy told FoodNavigator-USA.

“There are no pre-made, commercially available high-protein breakfast meals for consumers to purchase in the grocery stores”​ that will provide 35 grams of protein, according to the study in Obesity.

This is a problem because one of the main reasons that the teenagers told researchers they skip breakfast is because they were strapped for time in the morning and they didn’t have something fast and ready to eat.

In the study, funded by the Pork Checkoff, the researchers achieved 100% compliance by providing ready-to-eat high-protein breakfast burritos, casseroles, waffles, pancakes and lean pieces of pork.

Manufacturers easily could offer frozen versions of these high-protein breakfasts, Leidy said.

Indeed, she is exploring how to make the high protein waffle created for the study commercially available as a branded, frozen product that is quick to reheat and eat, Leidy said.

“These waffles taste really good,”​ and include protein from eggs, milk and have fruit and vegetables in them, she said.

Consumers need education, meal solutions

The research also illustrates a need for consumer education about the value of high-protein breakfast, which can be communicated through claims on product packaging, Leidy said. Such claims already are popular and many consumers use them as a tool for purchase decisions.

Finally, she suggested manufacturers create family-oriented breakfast products, such as kits or recipes featuring their products, that would appeal to consumers of all ages because many adults are just as guilty of skipping breakfast as teenagers.

Related topics: Science, Dairy-based ingredients, Proteins

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