People who have high-protein breakfasts are less likely to consume foods high in fat or sugar in the evening, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
To understand how protein affects daily eating habits, researchers recruited 20 overweight or obese women and divided them into three groups: the first ate a breakfast of eggs and lean beef (35 grams of protein), the second ate cereal (13 grams of protein) and the third skipped the meal entirely. The women stuck to the regimen for six days.
On day seven, participants filled out questionnaires related to their appetite and satiety, had blood samples drawn and were given fMRI brain scans so researchers could evaluate brain activity.
Researchers found that the women who ate breakfast felt fuller later on than those who skipped, and that the act of eating a morning meal led to a reduction in brain activity that causes food cravings. The participants who had a high-protein breakfast were the least likely to eat high-fat or high-sugar foods at night.
"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,” study researcher Heather Leidy, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri, said in a statement.
Up to 31 million people in the United States skip breakfast every morning, with men aged 18-34 the most likely to pass on the meal, according to a 2011 survey.