Skipping breakfast is all too common among young people, and previous research has strongly associated the habit with obesity- an epidemic that now affects one in three Americans . Researchers at the University of Missouri conducted a study on the effect of protein-rich breakfasts on the daily appetites of 20 overweight or obese adolescent girls who were prone to skipping breakfast.
Led by Heather Ledy, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, the researchers intended to see whether high-protein breakfasts could lead to gradual improvements in appetite regulation and reduce snacking throughout the day. Their results were published in the April 2013 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The participants, all 18-20 years old, were assigned one of three breakfast regiments for six consecutive days: a high-protein group that ate a 350-calorie meal including eggs and beef, with 35 grams of protein; an average-protein group that ate a 350-calorie meal consisting of cereal, with 13 grams of protein; and another group that skipped breakfast altogether. All the breakfasts were similar in fat and sugar content, energy density, dietary fiber and dairy and plant protein content.
On the seventh day, all the participants completed a 10-hour testing session that included appetite questionnaires and blood sample collections, followed by functional MRI brain imaging scans that measured their brain responses to food stimuli before they were scheduled to eat dinner.
The results showed that the participants who ate breakfast felt less hungry and fuller at the end of the week than those who skipped it, and displayed reduced brain activation in the regions that are known to control food motivation.
Furthermore, the high-protein breakfast eaters were less hungry and fuller than those who ate normal-protein breakfasts, and displayed lower brain activation in those corticolimbic regions. Only the protein-rich breakfasts led to overall reductions in circulating levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger; increases in the hormone PYY, which promotes satiety; and reduced high-fat snacking levels later in the evening.
"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 in a prepared statement.
"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."
In the statement, Leidy said that it takes only three days of eating high-protein breakfasts before the body adjusts its daily food cravings. Junk food temptations might make it seem difficult to cut down on your intake, but she insists that protein-rich morning meals can help cut down cravings.
For vegetarian high-protein breakfast ideas, fueled with beans, tofu, quinoa, and nuts, check out recommendations from Blisstree.