A study has determined that breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, especially in adolescents, as it raises levels of a chemical in the brain’s reward center that may help them stop craving sweet foods and overeating during the rest of the day. The numbers of teenagers struggling with obesity has quadrupled in the last 30 years.
“It used to be that nearly 100% of American adults, kids and teens were eating breakfast,” Prof. Leidy the senior researcher said, “but over the last 50 years, we have seen a decrease in eating frequency and an increase in obesity.”
The research focus was on young women and it was determined that eating breakfast increases levels dopamine involved in controlling impulses. As these levels increase they reduce food cravings and overeating.
The researchers determined that breakfasts high in protein reduce craving for savory or high fat foods. If breakfast is skipped these cravings continue to rise throughout the day.
Dopamine assists in regulating appetite as it feelings of reward. This response is an important part of eating because it helps to regulate food intake. “Dopamine levels are blunted in individuals who are overweight or obese, which means that it takes much more stimulation – or food – to elicit feelings of reward said Prof. Leidy. To counteract the tendencies to overeat and to prevent weight gain that occurs as a result of overeating, the researchers tried to identify dietary behaviors that provide these feelings of reward while reducing cravings for high-fat foods. Eating breakfast, particularly a breakfast high in protein, seems to do that.
Heather A Hoertel, et al.,. A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Nutrition Journal, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-80, published online 6 August 2014.