A researcher at the University of Missouri has discovered that eating a healthy, high protein breakfast can help to reduce feelings of hunger throughout the day.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers also discovered that a high protein breakfast can reduce the brain signals that control reward driven eating behaviour and food motivation. Heather Leidy, who is assistant professor at the University’s Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, believes that whilst most people understand the importance of eating breakfast, many still don’t ensure it’s a priority. She believes that the research provides further evidence that eating breakfast is an effective way of regulating food intake and controlling appetite.
The research was focused on teenagers that skip breakfast. The reason for this was two-fold, firstly it has been estimated that around 60% teenagers in the USA skip breakfast daily, and secondly skipping breakfast has been closely linked with over-eating (particularly at night), unhealthy snacking, obesity and weight gain. During a three week period, the teenagers either continued to miss breakfast or eat a five hundred calorie breakfast containing either, milk and cereal (containing standard amounts of protein), or, Belgium waffles, with yogurt and syrup (containing higher levels of protein).
Each week the volunteers completed questionnaires that were designed to measure their satiety and appetite. They also received a weekly brain scan to measure brain activation in specific areas related to reward and food motivation. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was found that both types of breakfast led to increased levels of satiety and reduced hunger throughout the morning. The fMRI scan results confirmed that brain activities in the areas controlling reward and food motivation were reduced prior to lunchtime when breakfast was eaten. It was also found that, compared to the breakfast with standard levels of protein, the protein rich breakfast resulted in greater changes in satiety, appetite and reward driven eating behaviour.