More Reason Not to Miss It: Breakfast Affects Social Behavior

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A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that breakfast affects social behavior. The researchers observed that people’s decision-making was influenced by the amount of carbohydrates or protein contained in their breakfast.


Study Shows Breakfast Affects Social Behavior

Specifically, 111 participants were given breakfasts with different macronutrient compositions and then asked to participate in a simulated financial deal.

The participants were tasked to play an economic and psychological game known as the Ultimatum Game, which results in an unequal division of money among players. Those who were given high-protein foods for breakfast were more even-tempered and less easily annoyed while making business decisions compared to those who ate carbohydrate-rich foods.

According to researcher Soyoung Park, of the University of Luebeck, people who had the high-carb breakfast tended to have lower levels of an amino acid called tyrosine, which is important in producing brain chemicals like dopamine. In addition, changes in tyrosine correlated with changes in people’s decision-making.


Criticisms of the Study

Several questions have been raised regarding the generalizability of the study, including the following from Dr. Luca Giliberto, a neurologist at Northwell Health Neuroscience Institute, who says:

“I doubt we can draw any conclusion on how to best manage our social interactions with food. The findings do align with what’s known about dopamine. A lower-carb/protein-rich meal might allow for higher levels of tyrosine—possibly “reinforcing the (brain’s) reward pathway. That, in turn, might make a person more accepting of an “unfair decision.”


Noting the complexity of factors affecting the current study, researcher Park wants to impart the message about what we eat and how it affects not just our health but our social decisions as well.

“I think it’s really important to have a well-balanced diet, and not get stuck on any one nutrient.” (Soyoung Park)


Indeed, the finding that breakfast affects social behavior directs our attention toward healthier eating habits and balanced diets.

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