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Skipping Breakfast Does Not Lead to Weight Loss

A recent study published in the esteemed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition takes a closer look at the importance of breakfast and the effects of breakfast skipping. The goal of this randomised crossover study was to explore whether a high-protein breakfast (an egg and beef rich meal providing 35g of protein), compared with a regular-protein breakfast (a cereal-based breakfast providing 13g of protein), helped improve such factors as satiety, appetite, food motivation and reward and evening snacking in twenty overweight breakfast-skipping adolescent girls.

As we might have rightly expected, breakfast, no matter whether high in protein or not, helped reduce daytime hunger compared to skipping breakfast. This is no big surprise and this finding is consistent with the opinion that skipping breakfast is associated with an increased occurrence of obesity in adolescents. Whilst eating breakfast also increased daytime fullness in comparison to skipping breakfast, the greatest effect was observed by high-protein breakfast. It gets yet better for the protein-rich breakfast, which in contrast to the normal-protein breakfast, reduced ghrelin (a hunger stimulating gut hormone) and boosted peptide YY levels (a satiety gut hormone) in comparison to skipping breakfast. Amongst the other results the scientists found that the high-protein breakfast, unlike the normal-protein breakfast, decreased the urge for evening snacking on high fat foods, compared with skipping breakfast.

The only problem is that in spite of all of these beneficial effects of the protein-rich breakfast on appetitive, neural and hormonal alterations, no meaningful differences in daily energy intake were registered in comparison to breakfast skipping. Whether, as the scientists note, this is simply the consequence of a short study duration (seven days), and that habitual consumption of a high-protein breakfast in the longer run might have more significant effect on our energy balance, remains speculative.

On the whole, these study results support the idea that eating breakfast is a good habit and that eating a breakfast rich in proteins might be a clever strategy for improving satiety and the overall quality of the diet. Although the results of the study may be limited to the sample of the population studied (overweight breakfast-skipping teenage girls), it does support the assumption that a diet rich in high-quality protein can be part of an effective weight-loss strategy or it can help prevent weight gain, due to improvements in satiety and appetite control. This study also raises the intriguing possibility that eating a high-protein breakfast can help favourably modify the appetite and hormonal signals that are responsible for regulating food intake throughout the day.

We only need to look at the world around us to see that many traditional cultures have long appreciated the importance of a protein-rich breakfast (e.g. bacon and eggs in England; black-pudding in Wales; haggis in Scotland; smoked fish in Scandinavia; small ravioli stuffed with meat or fish in Ecuador or Feijoada, black beans baked with various kind of meat and sausages in Brazil).