Protein-Rich Breakfast Prompts Healthy Brain Signals
By eating a breakfast high in protein, not only does one increase satiety and reduce hunger throughout the day, but it reduces the brain signals controlling food motivation and reward-driven eating behavior. Heather J. Leidy, from University of Missouri (Missouri, USA), and colleagues assessed physiological hunger and satiety by measuring perceived appetite sensations and hormonal markers in combination with psychological reward-driven motivation to eat, using functional MRI imaging (fMRI) to identify brain activation in specific regions related to food motivation and reward. The researchers focused on teenagers, who often skip breakfast: breakfast skipping has been strongly associated with unhealthy snacking, overeating (especially at night), weight gain and obesity. For three weeks, the teens either continued to skip breakfast or consumed 500-calorie breakfast meals containing cereal and milk (which contained normal quantities of protein) or higher protein meals prepared as Belgium waffles, syrup and yogurt. At the end of each week, the volunteers completed appetite and satiety questionnaires. Right before lunch, the volunteers completed a brain scan, using fMRI, to identify brain activation responses. Compared to breakfast skipping, both breakfast meals led to increased fullness and reductions in hunger throughout morning. fMRI results showed that brain activation in regions controlling food motivation and reward was reduced prior to lunch time when breakfast was consumed in the morning. Additionally, the higher protein breakfast led to even greater changes in appetite, satiety and reward-driven eating behavior compared to the normal protein breakfast. The team concludes that: “The addition of breakfast led to alterations in brain activation in regions previously associated with food motivation and reward with additional alterations following the higher-protein breakfast.”
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, 5 May 2011.