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 an expert.
This could help improve the diets of more than 25 million overweight or obese young adults in the US.
Heather Leidy, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, is the first to examine the impact of breakfast consumption on daily appetite and evening snacking in young people who habitually skip breakfast.
In her study, 20 overweight or obese adolescent females ages 18-20 either skipped breakfast, consumed a high-protein breakfast consisting of eggs and lean beef, or ate a normal-protein breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal.
Every breakfast consisted of 350 calories and was matched for dietary fat, fiber, sugar and energy density.
The high-protein breakfast contained 35 grams of protein.
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 behaviour.
The consumption of the high-protein breakfast led to increased fullness or “satiety” 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 when breakfast was skipped or when a normal protein, ready-to-eat cereal breakfast was consumed, Leidy said.
“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,” Leidy said.
“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,” she added.