We have long extolled the virtues of eating breakfast as an important weight loss and weight maintenance strategy: we often counsel patients to ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper’.  A recent study gives us more insight as to just how eating breakfast affects our brain activity and helps us control weight – especially if we load it up with a good dose of protein!

Heather Leidy and colleagues looked at the effects of breakfast eating in overweight, breakfast-skipping adolescent girls.  Ten girls were provided a normal protein (18g) and a high protein (50g) breakfast (each containing 490 calories) for a week each, and their appetite, feelings of fullness, and brain activation responses (using functional MRI scans) were compared to their baseline values in their usual breakfast-skipping habits.

The study found that the addition of breakfast resulted in significant reductions in brain activation responses to food stimuli several hours later, in areas of the brain that are associated with hunger, desire to eat, food motivation, and reward.  Decreased brain activation in these areas (including the hippocampus, amygdala, and others) were associated with lower appetite scores and higher sense of fullness as ranked by study participants.

In addition, the high protein breakfast led to even lower activation in some of these important food intake regulating areas of the brain, compared to the normal protein breakfast.

Therefore, this study shows that eating breakfast may help to regulate brain activity to control eating behaviours later in the day, especially if the breakfast is high in protein.

So, get out your Egg Beaters, your no-salt-added cottage cheese, your skim milk, and your lean cuts of deli meat – there are lots of options to create a high protein, healthy start to your day!

(Please note that if you have any kidney problems, that you should speak with your doctor about how much protein in your diet is right for you, before making changes to the protein in your diet.)

Dr. Sue © 2011   www.drsue.ca     drsuetalks@gmail.com

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