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By Dave EdmarkThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of AgricultureFast facts:* Study shows overweight kids burn more calories from protein breakfast than from
carbohydrate breakfast* Kids were less hungry and had a lower desire to eat after protein breakfast
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – People are told repeatedly to eat breakfast, the most important
meal of the day. But to make a difference against child obesity, not just any breakfast
will do. A protein-based meal makes it more likely that kids – especially overweight
ones – will burn more calories than those who eat a carbohydrate-based breakfast.
“Consuming breakfast is linked with health. Breakfast skipping is associated with
unhealthy eating habits because data show that those who skip breakfast in the morning
tend to make unhealthier food choices and consume more calories later in the day,”
said Jamie Baum, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture food science department.
A study that Baum conducted with support of the American Egg Board showed that both
normal weight and overweight children who consumed a protein-based breakfast felt
less hunger after breakfast than children who had a carbohydrate-based breakfast.
Those who ate the protein-based meal also expended more energy, which means they burned
more calories, in the hours after breakfast.
Jamie Baum of the Division of Agriculture food science faculty operates the metabolic
cart that’s hooked up to a graduate student. The machine measures the amount of oxygen
that someone is consuming versus the amount of carbon dioxide being breathed out.
Baum used it to measure how many calories children burned after consuming either a
protein-based or carbohydrate-based breakfast. (Photo by Dave Edmark.) Credit mandatory.
Baum’s study examined 29 children ages 8 to 12. Sixteen of them were normal weight
and 13 were overweight. They visited a facility early one morning and were assigned
one of two breakfasts to eat: one was a protein-based meal of one egg, two egg whites,
orange juice, two slices of white break and butter; the other was a carbohydrate-based
meal of one frozen waffle, butter, maple syrup and orange juice.
“Then we did a series of tests over four hours looking at their blood glucose as well
as their energy metabolism and appetite response – how hungry did they feel after
this breakfast,” Baum explained.
Their energy metabolism was measured on a machine while the kids lay flat on tables
under a clear dome-shaped hood as they watched television programs or movies – no
action movies or shows were allowed because they might excite the kids enough to throw
off the results.
“The machine, called a metabolic cart, measures gas exchange: the amount of oxygen
that they’re consuming versus the amount of carbon dioxide that they’re breathing
out,” Baum said. “The machine does some calculations and can tell you how many calories
your body is using as well as how many grams of fat or carbohydrates your body is
The data were collected from each child six times during the four hours. Then the
kids were treated to a lunch buffet with 20 items available, some classified as healthy
and some unhealthy, as the staff recorded how much and what they ate. That ended their
experiment for the day. One week later, they repeated the process but were served
an opposite breakfast than what they had during the first visit.
The overweight kids who ate the protein-based breakfast burned more calories and broke
down more fat and carbohydrates than overweight kids who had the carbohydrate-based
breakfast. But there wasn’t much difference in the breakdown among the normal weight
kids regardless of the type of breakfast they consumed. Baum noted that the normal
weight kids may have a healthier metabolism and can easily break down either type
“We also found that regardless of body weight, kids consuming the higher protein breakfast
stayed full longer, had less hunger and less desire to eat or consume a snack,” she
The results showed that the increased energy expenditure demonstrated by the kids
who had the protein-based breakfast could contribute to increased energy expenditure
and reducing obesity in overweight children. A longer-term study is planned for a
project funded by the Arkansas Biosciences Institute that will examine the same groups
of children by giving them a beverage to measure their energy metabolism over a longer
time period, Baum said.
The breakfast centered on egg and egg whites in this study was just one example of
a protein-based meal that is beneficial. Baum offered other examples of ways to put
some variety into the mix.
“You can add a piece of ham or turkey bacon to increase protein levels,” she said.
“With kids you can put ham on toast with an egg to make a breakfast sandwich. Or you
can add a piece of low-fat cheese, a good source of protein. Greek yogurt and low-fat
yogurt are also good sources of protein. If you’re thinking outside the box and you’re
making a breakfast sandwich you can always add chicken or turkey and low-fat cheese
to your egg and toast.”
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org