Findings suggest protein-based breakfasts may help dieters stay on track; fish offers a healthy choice
More than nine in 10 Americans surveyed recently echoed the truism that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but fewer than half reported eating breakfast every day.
The breakfast-skipping majority may be motivated to change their habits, should they hear the results of a small clinical trial.
On average, Americans consume only about 15 percent of their recommended daily protein intake at breakfast.
So the findings from a small clinical trial—which affirm the satiating effects of higher-protein breakfasts—may prompt weight-conscious people to try protein-based breakfasts.
The new pilot study was designed to test the effect of high-protein breakfast fare on appetites throughout the day.
The university researchers involved used eggs and lean bacon to test the effects of protein-based breakfasts on appetites... probably because the study was funded by the American Egg Board.
However, the results should apply to significantly healthier high-protein foods such as Salmon sausage or lower-sodium brands of smoked fish (like Vital Choice).
Protein at breakfast proves satisfying throughout the day
The protein-for-breakfast study was conducted by scientists from Purdue University and the University of Kansas Medical Center.
The small pilot trial involved nine overweight or obese men who ate reduced calorie diets containing varying proportions of protein (Leidy HJ et al. 2008).
- Normal protein intake (11-14 percent of calories)
- Increased protein (18-25 percent of calories)
The researchers tested the effect of consuming the “increased protein” diet at specific meals—breakfast, lunch or dinner—or spaced evenly throughout the day.
It turned out that the participants' feeling of fullness was greatest and most sustained throughout the day when the additional protein—from eggs and lean Canadian bacon—was eaten at breakfast, versus lunch or dinner.
The researchers concluded that when people ate these high-protein foods for breakfast they had a greater sense of sustained fullness throughout the day, compared to when more protein was eaten at lunch or dinner.
Lead author Wayne W. Campbell, Ph.D., made this observation in a press release:
“There is a growing body of research which supports eating high-quality protein foods when dieting to maintain a sense of fullness. This study is particularly unique in that it looked at the timing of protein intake and reveals that when you consume more protein may be a critical piece of the equation” (ENB 2008).
Findings fit with prior studies favoring higher-protein breakfasts
The Purdue-Kansas study adds to a growing body of research on the benefits of eating high-quality protein for weight management.
Two years ago, we covered the results of studies pitting high-carb diets against high-protein diets, in which the latter won out, with supplemental omega-3s adding extra benefits: see “High-Protein Diets Called Most Helpful for Weight Control.”
Recent research provides further evidence to support its findings:
- Overweight adults who ate two eggs for breakfast as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost more weight and felt more energetic than those who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories (Vanderwal JS et al 2008).
- A calorie-restricted diet with additional protein resulted in persistent post-meal feelings of fullness and improved overall mood. The same study also found that a higher level of protein intake was more effective in maintaining lean body mass during weight loss (Leidy H et al. 2007).
Protein sources exert varied effects on body fat, weight, and health
The new study was funded by the American Egg Board, so it's unsurprising that the press release announcing its results included breakfast protein tips slanted toward eggs and (lean) bacon.
Eggs are pretty healthy choices, especially if you choose ones labeled as being high in omega-3s. In fact, a recently released study affirms the heart-healthy status of eggs (See “Egg Study Puts Cracks in Anti-Cholesterol Claims”).
But there's little doubt that fish offer a healthier protein alternative to bacon, pork sausage or other red and processed breakfast meats (See “Breast Cancer Risk Raised by too Much Red Meat” and “Findings Rank Seafood and Poultry Far Safer than Processed Meats”).
Fatty fish are high in omega-3s, which appear to exert beneficial effects on aspects of metabolism related to fat storage and weight gain.
For more on this topic, see “Weight Loss Efforts Aided by Omega-3s,” “Omega-3s Boost Weight Loss Benefits of Low-Cal Diets,” and “Wild Salmon Excels for Sports and Fitness.”
- The Egg Nutrition News Bureau (ENB). September 3, 2008. New study reveals higher protein breakfast may help dieters stay on track. Accessed online September 5, 2008 at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-09/epr-nsr090208.php
- Leidy HJ, Bossinghama MJ, Mattesa RD, Campbell WW. Increased dietary protein consumed at breakfast leads to an initial and sustained feeling of fullness during energy restriction compared to other meal times. Brit J Nutr. Published online by Cambridge University Press September 2008. doi:10.1017/S0007114508051532
- Vanderwal JS, Gupta A,Khosla P, Dhurandhar NV. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int J Obes. Advance online publication 5 August 2008; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.130.
- Leidy HJ, Carnell NS, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Higher protein intake preserves lean mass and satiety with weight loss in pre-obese and obese women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Feb;15(2):421-9.
- International Food Information Council. 2008 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition & Health. Published online at http://www.ific.org/research/foodandhealthsurvey.cfm