A novel new study has confirmed that a higher protein breakfast in kids (aged 8-12 years) offers benefits in terms of increased energy expenditure, fat oxidation, reduced hunger and increased satiety.
The impetus for this study (conducted at the University of Arkansas) was the current alarming rates of obesity in children and the relative lack of research on the effects of breakfast macronutrient composition on postprandial hunger and metabolism in school-aged children. Simple measures such as a higher protein intake at breakfast are relatively easy to implement and therefore warrant investigation if proven to help with weight control and appetite.
The study included two groups of children: a normal weight group (n=16) and an overweight group (n=13). To test the effect of breakfast macronutrient competition on metabolism, the researchers devised two meal types: one with a higher protein content (344 kcal, 21% protein (18 g), 52% carbohydrate, and 27% fat) and the other a carbohydrate-dominant breakfast (327 kcal, 4% protein (3 g), 67% carbohydrate, and 29% fat). The study was conducted in a randomized, crossover-design manner such that each child had the chance to try both breakfast test meals.
After measuring indices such as energy expenditure, substrate oxidation (fancy name for relative amount of carbohydrate and fat burned to meet energy needs) and appetite, each participant was provided with access to a lunch buffet, where food intake was recorded. This served as a way to measure breakfast meal satiety.
The key finding to emerge from the study were both overweight and normal weight children experienced reduced hunger and increased perceptions of fullness after the protein breakfast. Interestingly, only the overweight children had a higher energy expenditure after the protein breakfast compared with normal weigh children. The other interesting finding to emerge was the difference in fat oxidation between the overweight and normal kids following the protein breakfast. In this regard, only the overweight kids exhibited higher fat oxidation following the protein breakfast, despite consuming the same calories as the normal weight children.
The key takeaway is that school-aged kids who are overweight might benefit from a higher protein and lower carbohydrate breakfast with regards to both their hunger and satiety as well as their energy expenditure and metabolism. Would something as simple as a protein shake be suitable together with a bit less cereal of toast? Perhaps. It’s certainly worth a try as childhood obesity is quickly emerging as a major health crisis in the western world.
Baum JI, et al. Breakfasts higher in protein increase postprandial energy expenditure, increase fat oxidation, and reduce hunger in overweight children from 8 to 12 years of age. J Nutr. 2015;145:2229–35.