Food & Beverage Perspectives
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Snacks Rich in Soy Protein Improve Diet Quality in Teens

An afternoon snack high in soy protein may be the ticket to keeping normal-weight and overweight teens from progressing toward obesity, a new study found.

An afternoon snack high in soy protein may be the ticket to keeping normal-weight and overweight teens from progressing toward obesity, a new study found.

The new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that consumption of a protein-rich afternoon snack containing soy protein resulted in reductions in appetite, a greater delay in subsequent eating, and improved diet quality in teens compared to other snack options.

Soy protein has been linked to several positive health effects, including the ability to lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad") cholesterol levels, increase bone density in menopausal and postmenopausal women and to improve body composition and metabolic function in certain males, noted Gene Bruno, in his INSIDER article, “Examining Popular Forms of Protein."

For the study, researchers at University of Missouri, in collaboration with DuPont Nutrition & Health, randomly assigned 31 healthy, normal-to-overweight adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 years who usually consume an afternoon snack either a chocolate-peanut-caramel-flavored pudding snack formulated with soy protein (26 g protein, 6 g fat, 27 g carbohydrate), a snack with a “typical" nutrition profile that is higher in fat (4 g protein, 12 g fat, 32 g carbohydrate), or no snack as part of the randomized, crossover-design trial.  Participants consumed the assigned snacks for three days, followed by a series of tests conducted after consumption on the fourth day.  

Study results indicate incorporation of a protein-rich afternoon snack improved total daily diet quality. Children who received the high-fat snack or no snack subsequently consumed more snacks high in fat and sugar that evening than those who consumed the protein-rich snack (the high-fat snack subjects consumed 20 percent more, while the no snack subjects consumed 30 percent more). Daily protein intake was higher and fat intake was lower when a protein snack was provided versus a high fat snack or no snack, but no differences in daily energy intake were observed between treatments.

The study also found that inclusion of an afternoon snack reduces appetite over the course of the afternoon, but the soy protein snack leads to a greater reduction in post-snack appetite. In addition, when participants consumed the protein-rich snack their request for their next meal was delayed by 20 minutes compared to the group that did not receive a snack.

In addition, afternoon snacking, particularly on foods rich in high-quality soy protein positively influenced certain aspects of mood and cognition. Energy was supported by consumption of an afternoon snack, compared to no snack at all. Teens consuming the protein-rich snack showed an increase in cognitive flexibility, or the ability to switch between different concepts and reduced feelings of confusion-bewilderment.

Ratna Mukherjea, Ph.D., associate director of global nutrition at DuPont Nutrition & Health and co-author of the study, noted that most studies investigating protein in the diet have been focused on adults, and the many of the studies that have looked at snacking among teens have been observational.

“The fact that snacks formulated to provide protein have positive outcomes in terms of appetite control and diet quality could have great implications for supporting weight management in young people," Mukherjea added.

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