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High-protein breakfast may prevent body fat gains in teens

About 60 percent of teens skip breakfast an average of 4 times per week.

By Stephen Feller
A breakfast high in protein may include eggs, dairy and lean pork. Photo by cobraphotography/Shutterstock
A breakfast high in protein may include eggs, dairy and lean pork. Photo by cobraphotography/Shutterstock

COLUMBIA, Mo., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Even though breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day, many teenagers skip it. Breakfast has already been shown in studies to help reduce the risk of obesity, but researchers have now found that eating a high protein breakfast can prevent gains of body fat and reduce daily food intake in overweight teenagers.

Large fluctuations in glucose levels have been linked to the potential development of type 2 diabetes, which researchers said can intensify health issues related to being overweight. About 60 percent of teens skip breakfast an average of 4 times per week, researchers said, making the health implications a potentially big concern for a majority of young people.

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"These results show that when individuals eat a high-protein breakfast, they voluntarily consume less food the rest of the day," said Dr. Heather Leidy, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri, in a press release. "In addition, teens who ate high-protein breakfast had more stable glucose levels than the other groups."

Researchers recruited 57 teenagers with a median age of 19 and body mass index of about 30 who skip breakfast between 5 and 7 times per week for the 12-week study. The teens were split into three groups. One group ate a high-protein breakfast of eggs, dairy and lean pork that contained 35 grams of protein; The second group was fed a normal breakfast of cereal in milk, which contains 13 grams of protein; and the third group was permitted to continue to skip breakfast as they normally would.

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Participants in the study tracked how hungry they felt and exactly what they ate each day during the 12 weeks. Researchers checked body weight and BMI at the beginning and end of the study, as well as asking the teens to wear a device that tracked their blood glucose level.

At the end of the study, the group of teens eating a high-protein breakfast every day lost body mass and reduced the amount of food they ate each day by about 400 calories. The other two groups -- who ate either a normal breakfast or nothing at all -- gained body fat and had less stable glucose levels than the high-protein group.

"This study examined if the type of breakfast consumed can improve weight management in young people who habitually skip breakfast," Leidy said. "Generally, people establish eating behaviors during their teen years. If teens are able to develop good eating habits now, such as eating breakfast, it's likely to continue the rest of their lives."

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The study is published in the Journal of Obesity.

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