Reference: Heather J. Leidy, Rebecca J. Lepping, Cary R. Savage, Corey T. 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
In a recent study conducted by the University of Missouri, assistant professor Heather Leidy looked at the correlation between high-protein breakfasts and the result they have on the body's hunger and satiety messages. The study looked specifically at teenaged participants who regularly skipped breakfast, a common practice among this population. It is estimated that 60% of all teens in America skip breakfast on a regular basis. The study measured the perception of hunger and the hormonal hunger response after eating a breakfast comprised primarily of proteins.
Skipping breakfast is considered to be the beginning of a chain-reaction of bad eating habits, leading to excessive unhealthy snacking, binge eating at night, weight-gain and obesity. While this is not new information, and it is commonly known that eating breakfast is a good thing, this knowledge has not had a significant impact on the eating habits of many.
The study participants were divided into three groups, one that continued missing breakfast, a second that received a regular protein portion, and a third that received a high-protein portion, over the course of three weeks. Each day, the participants were given a functional MRI (fMRI) to measure the brainâ€™s hormonal satiety, food reward response and fullness sensations before lunch. They also were required to complete a questionnaire describing their appetite and satiety at the end of each week.
With these tools it was concluded that the groups that consumed the regular protein meals experienced more fullness and less hunger throughout the morning, and had a reduced response to food motivation and reward behaviours. Comparing the high- and regular-protein portion groups, the group that consumed more protein had stronger results, with even greater satiety and reductions in hunger, food motivation and reward behaviour.
The study concluded that breakfast has a strong effect on brain activity, and that missing breakfast has consequences on subsequent daily eating habits. Avoiding snacking throughout the day is usually a healthy choice, not because snacking is inherently bad, but rather that most snacks are usually unhealthy foods, being high in fat and/or processed. Cravings for unhealthy snacks are a part of the cycle of weight-gain and obesity, and eating a high protein breakfast can help to turn that around.