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Eat protein at breakfast to snack less at night

U. MISSOURI (US) — One way to reduce cravings for high-fat, high-sugar snacks at night may be to eat more protein in the morning, research shows.

For a new 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 behavior.

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As reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating the high-protein breakfast led to increased fullness or “satiety” along with reductions in brain activity that is responsible for controlling food cravings. It 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, says Heather Leidy, assistant professor in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri.

“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 says. “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.”

People who normally skip breakfast might be skeptical about consuming food in the morning, but Leidy says it only takes about three days for the body to adjust to eating early in the day.

Study participants ate egg and beef-based foods such as burritos or egg-based waffles with applesauce and a beef sausage patty as part of a high-protein breakfast; Leidy also suggests eating plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or ground pork loin as alternatives to reach the 35 grams of protein.

Future research will examine whether regularly consuming high-protein breakfasts improves body weight management in young people.

Source: University of Missouri

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