Egg protein better at preventing hunger

New research shows that breakfast containing egg proteins is better at keeping hunger at bay than breakfasts containing wheat protein. The study, to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity on 12 May, measured appetite, energy intake and hunger hormones in overweight people following different types of breakfasts.

“This study adds to a growing evidence base which suggests that eggs may, indeed, be ‘nature’s appetite suppressant’”, comments dietitian, Dr Carrie Ruxton. “Previous studies have found that eating eggs at breakfast, or at lunch, reduces feelings of hunger and helps people to eat fewer calories at a later meal.

“The new research provides information on hormone levels for the first time, showing that consumption of eggs boosts PYY, a potent satiety hormone, while reducing levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. The high protein level of eggs, combined with their low fat content, means that eggs are a great choice for those trying to manage their weight”.

The findings of the new research, led by Dr Nikhil Dhurandhar, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana, USA, are being presented at the 19th European Congress on Obesity in Lyon, France.

Few studies have previously looked at the importance of protein quality for weight loss success.  As eggs are a source of high quality protein, Dr Nikhil Dhurandhar and colleagues compared the satiating (hunger-satisfying) effect of an egg breakfast (EB) to that of a ready-to-eat cereal breakfast (CB)— matched for energy density (ED) and macronutrient composition — but with differing protein quality.

20 overweight or obese, but otherwise healthy, subjects were randomised in this crossover study to eat an EB or CB daily under supervision for one week with a 2-week gap period between crossover. After this, the two groups swapped over.  A structured buffet lunch was provided on days 1 and 7 of each test week, in order to test how hungry participants were following their respective breakfasts.

The researchers found that subjects felt fuller before lunch when given an EB, and their lunchtime food intake on days 1 and 7 was lower during the EB week when compared to the CB week (both statistically significant findings). Participants in the EB group were also found to have lower concentrations of the hunger-stimulating hormone acylated ghrelin and increased PYY3-36 (a hormone that signals satiety secreted by the intestines) during the three hour period after breakfast but before lunch.

“This study shows that diets with higher protein quality may enhance satiety, leading to better compliance and success of a weight loss diet,” says Dr Dhurandhar. He adds that concerns in some quarters about diets high in protein consumption affecting liver and/or kidney function could be addressed by using lower amounts of high quality protein, such as that from eggs. “Long-term weight loss trials to compare the manipulation of protein quality without increasing protein quantity should be explored,” he says.

The new research adds to the body of evidence that eggs can play an important role in weight management.  A recent UK research study found that eating eggs at breakfast increases satiety and helps to reduce energy intake from subsequent meals[1], and a previous study showed that an egg-based lunch can help people feel fuller for longer when compared with other common lunches with similar energy content2.

Notes to editors

The study was funded by the American Egg Board.
Dr Dhurandhar’s conference presentation will take place at 10am (Lyon time) on Sat 12 May.

1 Wilson L, Fallaize R, Gray J, Morgan L, Griffin B. Eggs at breakfast increase satiety and reduce the subsequent intake of energy at lunch and an evening meal relative to cereal or croissant-based breakfasts. University of Surrey. Presented at The Nutrition Society Winter Meeting 6th-7th December 2011.
2 Pombo-Rodrigues S, Calame W, Re R 2011. The effects of consuming eggs for lunch on satiety and subsequent food intake. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.