You should know me by now. I give you the scientific facts. Unlike most “health gurus”, I don’t just keep serving up my prejudices as “information”.
The truth is, however, I’m shocked by a new study. It goes against a great deal. But it’s a very interesting study, with an interesting conclusion, and deserves to be widely known.
I will not take the usual amateur line that, because it conflicts with my knowledge, it must be flawed or fraudulent. I have no reason to doubt the sincere investigators in Tel Aviv.
What did they find that is so shocking?
That starting your morning with a high-protein food and a sticky “dessert” — such as a doughnut or a slice of cake — may help you lose weight and keep it off.1
Predictably, several nutritionists said they weren’t ready yet to embrace the study’s conclusions. Well, what’s the point of science, if you don’t pay attention to possible lessons?
Tel Aviv University’s Wolfson Medical Center in Israel compared two diet regimens — one featuring a low-carbohydrate breakfast, around 300 calories, the other a high-protein, high-carb breakfast, around 600 calories. The sweets-with-breakfast group lost more weight after eight months.
The study included 193 obese men and women who lived sedentary lifestyles, but didn’t have type 2 diabetes. The average age was 47.
The average body mass index was 32.2. A BMI of 30 is considered obese; normal is 25. The study volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups, each allowing men 1,600 calories daily and women 1,400 calories a day. One group got a high-protein, high-carb breakfast, while the other group was put on a low-carb diet that included a 300-calorie breakfast, with only 10 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein. (A small apple contains 14 grams of carbohydrates).
The dessert-with-breakfast group was allowed 600 calories at breakfast — almost twice as many calories — including 60 grams of carbohydrates and 45 grams of protein. Types of protein included tuna, egg whites, cheese and low-fat milk. This group ate fewer calories at lunch and dinner than the low-carb group.
After four months, volunteers in both groups lost about 33 pounds each.
However, here’s the kicker: over the next four months, dieters eating low-carbohydrate breakfasts regained 22 pounds on average. But, those who’d had dessert with breakfast continued to lose weight, averaging another 15-pound weight loss, according to the study.
As a fan of low-carbohydrate dieting, I find this very surprising… So it must be wrong, right?
Well, that’s being rather immature. Suppose it was correct. What explanation would help us to understand what was going on? Maybe the sticky breakfast group were genuinely helped.
Eating a healthy form of protein at each meal and snack likely helped these dieters feel full and keep their blood sugar levels on an even keel.
It could be lowered ghrelin. That’s a stomach hormone that causes sensations of hunger (the opposite of leptin, which gives a feeling of satiety).
Weight loss diets are notorious for creating hunger. If the body floods with ghrelin, it’s very hard to stay focused and not eat. If long-term dieting (4 months is long term) builds up ghrelin levels, then it’s natural that the person will tend to overeat. It creates bad habits.
That’s the cause of the notorious “rebound” effect, when somebody stops dieting. They put back 20, 30 or 40 lbs. pretty quickly.
But, “a high protein and carbohydrate breakfast may overcome these compensatory changes and prevent obesity relapse. If you remember the health writer Adele Davis in the 1970s, she used to say a hearty breakfast is healthy.2
Don’t Go Crazy
This is not mean you can go nuts and behave foolishly. I’m not giving you permission to eat a lot of foods with trans fats, like doughnuts, cookies and cakes. Trans fats, which are partially hydrogenated oils found in baked goods and other products, can raise blood cholesterol levels.
Eating breakfasts like chocolate-covered honey-dipped cereals is still a bad idea. There is no nutrition in such garbage. A muffin made with a proper recipe is different (but don’t buy the coffee shop variant that’s made with corn syrup sweetener).
Police your food as normal. This study doesn’t turn junk food into magic pixie dust to help you lose weight. It does tell you that breakfast may not be the meal to skip.
As Adele Davis wrote all those years ago: breakfast gets the day’s work done!
My Favorite Breakfast? Omelette with mashed berries, lashings of flax seed oil and a drizzle of maple syrup! A sweet egg dish coincides exactly with what the researchers used.
- Paper presented June 25, 2012, Endocrine Society annual meeting, Houston
- Davis, A. Let’s Eat Right To Keep Fit, 1970, chapter” Breakfast Get’s The Day’s Work Done
[please remember a lot of Adelle Davis’ work is now discredited]