Hi Readers – I’m honored to let you know that Dr. Heather Leidy is blogging today regarding research .
Two key forces exist which act against our desire to be healthy and manage body weight. First, we have internal ‘physiological’ signals which respond to energy restriction, dieting, and weight loss and lead to increased hunger and reductions in fullness (satiety). Many individuals respond to these signals and eat in excess, leading to the prevention of sustained weight loss and/or obesity. We are also constantly bombarded by the modern food environment containing food-centered advertisements and easy access to highly palatable, energy dense, sugar-laden snacks. This type of environment shifts our eating away from physiological need towards reward-driven over-eating.
To add to the problem, many Americans follow unhealthy dietary practices further intensifying these behaviors. One in particular is the now-common habit of skipping breakfast which is strongly associated with over-eating/snacking (especially in the evening), weight gain, and obesity. Fortunately, there are several dietary strategies that have been implemented to target and prevent both types of eating behavior. These include increased dietary protein and breakfast consumption.
We’ve published several articles focusing on the beneficial effects of a modest increase in protein intake (1-4). Through these studies, we found that an increase in protein consumption from 15% of daily intake to 25-30% of intake leads to improvements in appetite control and satiety(1-4). In fact, a higher protein diet, containing lean meat and eggs, leads to increased fullness throughout the day and reduced desire to eat and preoccupation with thoughts of food throughout the evening hours compared to a normal protein diet—even during weight loss(1,3). It is quite clear that a diet containing an increase in dietary protein, still well-within the dietary guidelines, is beneficial for appetite control.
Based on this data as well as the negative outcomes associated with breakfast skipping, we are now focusing on the daily addition of a protein-rich breakfast in those who skip the morning meal. We recently report that skipping breakfast leads to greater hunger and reduced satiety (i.e., fullness) throughout the morning hours, leading to a greater amount of food consumed at lunch time compared to a normal protein breakfast5. We also found that eating a higher protein breakfast (38% of the meal as high quality dairy and egg protein, 49 g) leads to even greater benefits by further reducing appetite and subsequent food intake.
In our most recent study6, we focused on whether breakfast would actually alter food-related brain activation known to stimulate reward-driven eating behavior. In this study, ‘breakfast skippers’ consumed meals containing either normal quantities of protein or higher protein (i.e., 40% of the meal as dairy and egg protein). Compared to breakfast skipping, the consumption of both types of breakfast meals led to reductions in brain activation patterns in regions controlling appetite, motivation to eat, and food reward. The higher protein breakfast led to even greater reductions in these activations compared to the normal protein breakfast. These data suggest that incorporating a healthy breakfast containing protein-rich foods may be a simple dietary strategy to improve appetite control and prevent over-eating.
1Leidy HJ, et al. 2007 Higher protein intake preserves lean mass & satiety with weight loss in pre-obese & obese women. Obesity 15:421-429.
2Leidy HJ, et al. 2007 Effects of acute & chronic protein intake on metabolism, appetite & ghrelin during weight loss. Obesity. 15:1215-25.
3Leidy HJ, et al. 2011 The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity; 19 (4): 818-824.
4Leidy HJ, et al. 2010 The influence of higher protein intake and greater eating frequency on appetite control in overweight and obese men. Obesity; 18(9): 1725-1732.
5Leidy HJ & Racki EM. 2010 The addition of a protein-rich breakfast and its effects on acute appetite control and food intake in `breakfast-skipping’ adolescents. International Journal of Obesity. 34(7): 1125-1133.
6Leidy HJ, et al. 2011 Neural responses to visual food stimuli after normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens-a pilot fMRI study. Obesity; EPUB ahead of Print. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.108