High-protein breakfast can cut cravings all day

04/03/2013 10:55 AM

04/03/2013 11:01 AM

Would you be interested in a pill that decreases the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and increases the satiety hormone peptide YY? This potent combination exists, but it is nutrient, not a pill. Today’s topic is protein.

Twenty breakfast-skipping, overweight or obese women ages 18 to 20 were recruited for a study at the University of Missouri that is published in the current American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They were divided into three groups: no breakfast, a breakfast with 13 grams of protein and one with 35 grams of protein. The meals in both breakfast groups were 350 calories and had the same fat, fiber and sugar content.

After eating the test breakfasts for seven days, the women completed written surveys, provided blood samples and had an MRI before dinner on the final day. The surveys revealed that the high-protein breakfast produced an increased feeling of fullness all day. The MRIs of the high-protein breakfast eaters showed reduction in brain activity that is responsible for food craving.

The high-protein breakfast decreased ghrelin and increased peptide YY more than the lower-protein breakfast and much more than in the no-breakfast option. It also reduced evening snacking on high-fat foods when compared to breakfast skipping.

The study’s small number of subjects and short duration are limitations, but previous research has supported the appetite-managing properties of protein.

This is not a call to Adkins, but a suggestion that adding more protein to breakfast can help with appetite control. Eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, tempeh and low-fat cottage cheese can be the base for a higher-protein breakfast. Add walnuts or almonds, peanut butter or quinoa for a protein boost.

A spinach omelet made with one egg and two egg whites, a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter and 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup of walnuts and blueberries delivers 35 grams of protein and about 350 calories. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.

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