What a person eats – or doesn’t eat – at breakfast could affect their eating behavior much later in the day according to a recent University of Missouri study. Researchers from Mizzou’s Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology studied groups of overweight or obese females between 18 and 20 years of age. One group skipped breakfast, which is typical for about 60 percent of young people. Another group ate a typical breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal and a third group ate a high-protein breakfast of eggs and lean beef. Each of the breakfasts consisted of 350 calories.

The researchers used blood tests, brain scans and questionnaires to evaluate the effects of each treatment on eating behavior later in the day. They found that either breakfast, and especially the high-protein breakfast, helped the subjects feel less hungry throughout the day compared with those who skipped breakfast. The high-protein breakfast also reduced production of hormones associated with hunger later in the day and reduced brain activity associated with late-day food cravings. Subjects in the high-protein group reported less evening snacking on high-fat foods compared with those who skipped breakfast.

The short-duration trial did not show differences in weight loss or weight gain, but researchers conclude that eating breakfast, particularly one rich in protein, “might be a useful strategy to improve satiety, reduce food motivation and reward, and improve diet quality in overweight or obese teenage girls.”

The research was partially funded by the Beef Checkoff and the paper is published in the April issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.