I am always looking for interesting things to write about for Mnn.com, so the topic of a weight loss diet that included a dessert for breakfast certainly caught my eye. Researchers at the Tel Aviv University did a 16-week study with two groups of people. Both groups had the same, low-calorie diet. Both started with a protein-rich breakfast. But one group got a mandatory cookie, chocolate, cake or donut for dessert with that meal (apparently, they just ate less later to make up for the calorie increase at breakfast). Basically, while both groups had low-calorie diets, one group had a higher-carb allotment.
Here is the thing. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight – 33 lbs. on average. But in the 16-week follow-up, the low-carb group had regained an average of 22lbs. But the higher carb group? They continued to lose weight, averaging a loss of 15lbs.
I’ll take the diet with the donut, thank you!
A few other facts about the study:
First, the 200 people doing the diet were all obese. Someone who had just a few pounds to lose might not find the diet effective. The authors also found that the dieters allowed the dessert in the morning had an easier time staying on the diet. The dessert group had less cravings and hunger and has greater drops of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin after breakfast when compared to the low-carb dieters. You should also note that the group eating the cake had to eat it in the morning. They couldn’t save it for an after-dinner snack. The dessert was also quite small.
It almost sounds to good to be true, doesn’t it? A diet that includes cake and donuts is definitely in the realm of daydreams of “wish it could be”. And besides, doesn’t sugar and carbs make you gain weight. Look at the Atkins diet. Look at the paleo /primal diet.
Here are a few thoughts.
First, I am not “anti-carb”. I personally could eat vegetables, protein, and fat until I turned green, but not feel satisfied. However, if I pair those vegetables and protein, and fat with a nice serving of mashed potatoes or a slice of bread, I feel great! So the idea that a diet with carbs in it is helpful in making dieters feel satisfied resonates from my day-to-day experiences.
However, I don’t think that eating a daily serving of refined sugar is great for you. And depending on the quality of the other ingredients in a donut, cookie or cake, you could end up with a lot of preservatives, food additives, and other nasty things. Furthermore, to make the breakfast so high-protein, yet lower calorie, people ate non-fat milk/yogurt and egg whites. While, yes, they did get more protein for less calories, that fat from the milk is needed to properly assimilate the nutrients from the meal. The egg yolk is the most vitamin-rich part of the egg. While, granted, I suppose any fat-soluble nutrients would be absorbed because you are eating plenty of fats with the cake or donut, it just seems a little backwards and not a diet for proper nutrition.
Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, the study’s principal investigator, now has a book out called The Big Breakfast Diet: Eat Big Before 9 A.M. and Lose Big for Life. I am sure she would give a lot more guidelines and details there.
For a different mindset, check out Julia Ross in The Diet Cure: The 8-Step Program to Rebalance Your Body Chemistry and End Food Cravings, Weight Gain, and Mood Swings–Naturally. She does an excellent job laying down clearly the problem of low-calorie diets and the dieting yo-yo that happens. She has seen how nutrient depleted people who diet become, which leads to eventual weight issues as their body starts working improperly. Her diet plan is completely different. On her plan you eat plenty of vegetables and protein, carbs enough to satisfy, and amino acids to help depleted levels. She is very convincing. She also agrees that breakfast is very important.
But perhaps the greatest thing we can learn from this study, is that it doesn’t always pay to be as extreme as possible. Jakubowicz told the New York Times, “Most people simply regain weight, no matter what diet they are on … But if you eat what you like, you decrease cravings. The cake — a small piece — is important.” The whole point of the dessert is to help you feel satisfied in how you eat. “
Perhaps cake is important to our diet after all! But I’d make it a real food, homemade one. Your taste buds and health will thank you.
I’d love to open up the topic of weight control or weight loss on a real food diet. What is your experience and thoughts? I know that is it a big topic, and often confusing, but I’d love to hear from you!