If you’re currently attempting to lose weight, you might imagine that eating a slice of pie or cake for breakfast would be one of the worst mistakes you could possibly make. Surprisingly, a recent study is suggesting exactly the opposite.
The study, conducted by Israel’s Tel Aviv University, indicates that obese individuals may be able to adhere more closely to their diets and sustain weight loss for longer if they eat a breakfast with plenty of carbs, protein and a dessert instead of one with little calories, little carbs and no dessert.
Big Sweets for Breakfast = Big Weight Loss Results
The Tel Aviv University study separated 193 obese adults into two groups, with each group receiving a different diet assignment to follow for 16 weeks. The first group was asked to eat large 600-calorie breakfasts, each of which included a dessert such as a donut, cake or cookie. The second group was assigned to smaller, lower-carb 300-calorie breakfasts which did not include sweets.
To compensate, those in the 600-calorie breakfast group ate a 300 to 400-calorie dinner, while those in the 300-calorie breakfast group ate a 600 to 700-calorie dinner. All of the study participants ended up with the exact same daily caloric restrictions, set at 1,400 calories for women and 1,600 calories for men.
Following the 16-week study period, weight loss results were roughly the same for both groups.
Next, the researchers implemented a follow-up period, suggesting that participants stick to their diets but allowing them to eat additional food if they were hungry. This is where results varied wildly between the two groups. Although those in the 600-calorie breakfast group lost an average of 15 pounds, those in the 300-calorie breakfast group gained an average of 24 pounds, for a total weight loss difference of 39 pounds.
Beyond the increased levels of weight loss, researchers found that those in the 600-calorie breakfast group had lower levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for making us feel hungry. Implementing a reduced calorie diet normally causes ghrelin levels to spike and metabolism to drop. According to Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, the lead researcher behind the study, eating a high-calorie breakfast with plenty of carbs, protein and a dessert may counteract these expected effects of dieting.
Don’t Reach for the Cake Just Yet: Skeptical Experts Weigh In
Dr. Jakubowicz feels that her study’s results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that both what you eat and when you eat factor heavily into weight loss.
However, a number of nutritionists and dietitians have already expressed skepticism regarding the study’s findings. Dietitian Katherine Tallmadge said that she would “never in a million years” suggest sweets as a viable breakfast option to her patients. According to Tallmadge, it’s unfair to compare a 300-calorie breakfast to a 600-calorie one when meal composition differs so heavily between the two.
First, Tallmadge is concerned that eating dessert with breakfast on a regular basis would significantly increase an individual’s intake of sugar and refined flour. This, in turn, would increase the individual’s likelihood of contracting life-threatening conditions such as cancer or heart disease.
Tallmadge also said that eating sugar on a regular basis can make you crave sweets more often, reminding us of a recent study suggesting that sugar is actually addictive. For this reason, Tallmadge suggests a balanced, nutritious breakfast that accounts for about 33% of your daily calories. Instead of sweets, Tallmadge recommends traditional high-quality breakfast foods such as fruit, low-fat or skim milk, oatmeal and whole grain cereal.
Other experts said that eating occasional sweets at breakfast is acceptable so long as your overall diet is healthy and calorie-conscious.
Eat a Bigger Breakfast for Better Weight Loss
There was one item, however, on which all the experts could agree: eating a large, balanced breakfast is an excellent way to sustain weight loss. Doing so will minimize hunger cravings as the day goes on, jumpstart your metabolism and make you less likely to binge on unhealthy foods, regardless of whether you’re actively trying to lose weight.
If anything, the Tel Aviv University study contained too many variables, since it incorporated a dessert and doubled the calorie content of the first group in comparison to the second group. The results probably would have been similar, if not even more pronounced, had the researchers left dessert out of the equation and simply doubled the caloric size of the breakfast.
As such, the real takeaway from the study is not that sweets are ideal for breakfast, but rather that most people, weight loss seekers especially, should eat a larger breakfast than they probably do now.
Sweets for Breakfast: The Bottom Line
A recent Tel Aviv University study indicates that eating a large breakfast that includes protein, carbs and a dessert is more effective for sustained weight loss than eating low-carb, 300-calorie breakfasts. However, the study may have been compromised by the addition of too many variables. Experts agree that eating a breakfast that accounts for about one-third of your daily calories is an excellent idea, though incorporating sweets is unnecessary and probably detrimental to your overall health.
The full text of the study can be found in the medical journal Steroids.