Eating breakfast daily reduces the tendency of overeating and helps in losing weight, a new study finds.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan. Previous research has found that along with sedentary lifestyles, overeating is the biggest cause of weight gain, leading to obesity. Preventative methods to curb this activity can help immensely in controlling obesity problems. Researchers of a new study noted that eating breakfast daily can help to a large extent.
It has been observed that many people on weight-loss diets tend to skip breakfast. However, this only leads to them overeating during their next meal, which fails to serve the purpose of weight loss. Therefore, researchers of the current study suggest that eating breakfast, especially one rich in proteins, increases young adults' levels of a brain chemical associated with feelings of reward, which may reduce food cravings and overeating later in the day. Understanding the brain chemical and its role in food cravings could lead to obesity prevention and treatment.
"Our research showed that people experience a dramatic decline in cravings for sweet foods when they eat breakfast," said Heather Leidy, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, in a press statement. "However, breakfasts that are high in protein also reduced cravings for savory - or high-fat - foods. On the other hand, if breakfast is skipped, these cravings continue to rise throughout the day."
In the study, researchers examined the effects of different types of breakfast on participants' levels of dopamine, a brain chemical involved in moderating impulses and reward, including food cravings. They used homovanillic acid (HVA), the main dopamine metabolite to measure dopamine levels in the participants. Researchers found that eating breakfast initiates a release of dopamine, which stimulates feelings of food reward.
"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; we saw similar responses within breakfast-skippers," Leidy said. "To counteract the tendencies to overeat and to prevent weight gain that occurs as a result of overeating, we 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."
Researchers noted that though most of the study participants were around the age of 19 years, the findings can be applied to the general population of the country.
"In the U.S., people are skipping breakfast more frequently, which is associated with food cravings, overeating and obesity," Leidy said. "It used to be that nearly 100 percent of American adults, kids and teens were eating breakfast, but over the last 50 years, we have seen a decrease in eating frequency and an increase in obesity."
Findings of the study were published online in the Nutrition Journal. The project was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, the Egg Nutrition Center and the Margaret Flynn Award from the University of Missouri.