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MU study finds protein-rich breakfast beneficial

Protein-rich breakfasts may include eggs, meat, Greek yogurt or peanut butter.

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A study conducted by a researcher from the University of Missouri found that a protein-rich breakfast improves appetite control.

Lacey Sterling/Senior Staff Photographer

April 2, 2013

Eating a protein-rich breakfast can lead to healthier eating habits later on in the day, according to a study by MU Assistant Professor Heather Leidy.

More than 78 million U.S. adults and about 12 million U.S. children and adolescents were obese between 2009 and 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Leidy, a member of the Nutrition and Exercise Physiology Department, is one of many researchers seeking to understand the obesity problem in the U.S.

Leidy and her team studied 20 overweight or obese females ranging in ages 18 to 20 years old. Participants skipped breakfast, ate a breakfast with a normal amount of protein or consumed a high-protein breakfast. Calorie, dietary fat, fiber, sugar and energy density intake were consistent among the different samples.

Throughout the daylong study, participants answered questionnaires, had their blood drawn and had their brains scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) before they ate dinner. Researchers used information from the brain scan to monitor brain signals that control appetite.

The participants who consumed the high-protein breakfast felt less hungry later in the day and snacked on fewer high-fat and high-sugar foods in the evening.

“I really noticed that I would just eat later,” study participant Kyleigh Johnson said. “I think I was making up for not eating earlier. Energy-wise, I think I was not as tired.”

The high-protein breakfast participants ate included 35 grams of protein. In perspective, one large whole egg contains about six grams of protein, according to the Egg Nutrition Center. One five-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt may contain about 15 grams of protein.

The research concluded most teenagers that skip breakfast sleep as late as possible and compromise time that could be spent eating. Teenagers are also less motivated to make breakfast if they have to prepare it themselves.

Leidy has completed multiple studies on protein-rich diets. Satiation, or dietary satisfaction, has been a focus of her work.

There haven’t been many well-controlled studies looking at why different types of protein might be more satiating, said Victoria Vieira-Potter, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology.

“Like any study it has to be replicated,” Vieira-Potter said. “As you might imagine with any human study, there are lots of variables.”

The Beef Board, a government entity that regulates beef production, and the Egg Nutrition Center, an information center on egg-related research, funded Leidy’s research. While the funding for the research came from organizations associated with high-protein foods, it did not influence the results of the study, Vieira-Potter said.

“Dr. Leidy is completely unbiased,” Vieira-Potter said. “She’s a researcher, so she’s doing it for the science, not for the money.”

Leidy plans to research whether body weight is healthier in young people who frequently eat protein-rich breakfasts.

Leidy was unable to be reached for comment.

“I definitely think her research is sound and certainly important,” Vieira-Potter said.

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