A recent study has found that eating a protein-rich breakfast reduces feelings of hunger throughout the day (1).
Skipping breakfast has been linked with overeating, weight gain and obesity. Those who regularly skip breakfast have 4.5 times the risk of obesity as those who consume breakfast regularly (2).
Researcher Heather Leidy recently conducted a study to determine whether the type of breakfast we eat might also affect hunger and feelings of fullness.
She assessed hunger and satiety by measuring self-perceived appetite sensations. The researchers also used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify activity in specific areas of the brain related to food motivation and reward.
The study was conducted on overweight teenage girls who habitually skipped breakfast. One group of participants was given a regular breakfast of cereal and milk for seven days, while a second group ate a higher protein breakfast. On the seventh day, the participants completed appetite and satiety questionnaires. They were also given a brain scan which recorded the brain’s response to images of food prior to lunch.
Compared to skipping breakfast, both types of morning meal led to increased fullness and reduced appetite before lunchtime. The brain scan confirmed that activity in regions of the brain that control ‘food motivation and reward’, or the desire to eat, was reduced at lunchtime when breakfast had been eaten earlier.
Additionally, the protein-rich breakfast led to even greater changes in appetite, feelings of fullness and desire to eat.
Leidy advises caution in interpreting the results of this preliminary study, as the sample size was small. The initial findings indicate that eating a protein-rich breakfast might help to control appetite and prevent overeating in young people.
"People reach for convenient snack foods to satisfy their hunger between meals, but these foods are almost always high in sugar and fat and add a substantial amount of calories to the diet.”
Liedy said. "Incorporating a healthy breakfast containing protein-rich foods can be a simple strategy for people to stay satisfied longer, and therefore, be less prone to snacking,"
Protein-rich breakfasts can be simple and quick to prepare. Try a couple of poached eggs on a slice of wholegrain toast, unsweetened museli with natural yoghurt, or a couple of slices of rye bread spread with peanut butter. Or for those who love their usual breakfast cereal, you can boost the protein content by adding a scoop of hemp of whey protein powder.
References 1. Heather J. Leidy, et al. Harris. Neural Responses to Visual Food Stimuli After a Normal vs. Higher Protein Breakfast in Breakfast-Skipping Teens: A Pilot fMRI Study. Obesity, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2011.108 2. Ma, Y., Bertone, E., Staneck, EJ., et al. Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2003; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwg117