Sunday, July 29, 2012


THE LATEST “BREAKTHROUGH” WEIGHT LOSS RESEARCH – one of the “pearls” of recent nutritional “science”


By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2

The Daily Mail newspaper in England recently published (online version, June 26th, 2012) the conclusions of a study done at Tel Aviv University which bluntly states that eating dessert for breakfast helps you lose weight. The study, for obvious reasons, made for the BIG NEWS. But before you jump into eating doughnuts and cake for breakfast again, maybe you should at least try to dissect it a little bit further and see if the facts really hold up.
The article starts with: “Good news for dieters – having a sweet treat for breakfast can actually help you lose pounds and keep them off longer” – PERFECT advice! Have some processed sugar, Stupid!

It goes on to say: “Although both diets (there were 2 groups) had the same amount of calories (….) - one included a large breakfast with a sweet treat such as a doughnut, while the other allowed  for a larger meal later in the day”. What an ingenious statement that a bigger meal in the morning makes you fuller and more satisfied for the rest of the day, while being hungry all day and eating most of your calories at night keeps you fat. Did they really need to waste money on research to figure this out? Really???

The author of the study states that “The goal of a weight loss diet should be not only weight reduction, but also reduction of hunger and cravings, thus helping prevent weight gain”. Yes, indeed, that’s a smart statement, but how on earth did they draw the conclusion that you can (or should even attempt to) reduce hunger and cravings with extra sugar is beyond me.

In my holistic nutrition coaching practice I always suggest clients eat at least 25% (if not more) of their daily caloric intake for breakfast. The reason is simple and logical: your body needs most of the calories during the day to maintain a certain level of energy, not at night when it rests. No surprise here. So, if you starve it for the first part of the day, it will slow down its metabolic rate to conserve calories. This will result in fewer calories burnt overall and more calories stored. No surprise here either.

Unless you have been on a ketogenic diet for quite some time (meaning you have been eating mostly protein and fat, with minimal amount of carbohydrates, and your body has had a chance to switch to using body fat as fuel almost exclusively), you will still need some carbohydrates. Depending on your Metabolic Type you will need a lot, a little, or somewhere in between, but you will need them nonetheless for your body and brain to function properly. In the study, the subjects in the group that regained the weight were given not only 50% fewer calories, but of those calories only 13% were from carbohydrates – way too little even for Protein Types. The group that lost more weight was given double the amount of calories, more calories coming from carbohydrates (40%), AND a higher total amount of protein. (By the way, even in that group the ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and calculated 30% fat still kept that group in a moderate carbohydrate/high protein classification – a perfect Zone Diet.)

Why is it then a wonder that the results came out the way they did? One has to be completely blind to not be able to figure out why the higher carbohydrate diet worked better. So, simply speaking, the bigger meal satisfied the body’s energy needs better, by providing more satiating protein, more energy producing carbohydrates, and a sufficient amount of fat to keep the participants’ blood sugar under control. In addition, higher amounts of protein and carbohydrates created a higher level of thermogenesis (amount of heat produced and calories burnt in the process of digestion, assimilation, etc.) since they take more energy to break down and digest than a low-calorie breakfast, whose 52% of calories came from fat, a nutrient with a minimal thermogenic effect.
At this point, I start to wonder why anyone would even undertake a study whose outcome is not only obvious, but at best unhealthy, and dangerous at worst. And who could possibly pay for a stupid science like this? The sugar industry? I would be curious to check the sources that funded it, and I probably wouldn’t be very surprised with my findings.

Another important point, if you haven’t figured it out already, is the fact that the same effects could have been achieved by substituting some high quality, high fiber carbohydrates: vegetables, fruit, whole grains like old-fashioned slow cooking oatmeal, dairy (whose big % of calories come from carbohydrates, e.g. yogurt, etc.), and even small amounts of healthier sweeteners like organic raw honey or unprocessed maple syrup for the "dessert treat". I bet the researchers knew the outcome would have been exactly the same, or better, but the study wouldn’t have made big news.

What bothers me most, is that this is exactly what companies that fund dubious studies like this one count on – masses of readers or listeners, who have absolutely no idea how to evaluate scientific research, and who take whatever is fed to them by the media (and sponsored by the food and drug industries) at face value. If it’s research from some university, it must be valid.

With the overwhelming obesity epidemic in the US and (thanks to commercial CRAP food production driven exclusively by money) spreading quickly to other countries, the last thing we need is scientists telling us to eat more sugar in order to lose weight.

Funny though, the researcher’s conclusions are correct, for the most part:

1. Timing of the meal is indeed an important factor in weight loss success (here having a bigger meal in the am),

2. Diets higher in protein reduce hunger by giving the feeling of satiety,

3. Carbohydrates make people feel full.

But here’s the conclusion I have a real problem with: “dessert kept sweet and fat cravings under control”. Any half-reliable nutrition source will tell you that dessert (or any sugar for that matter) does anything BUT that. As a matter of fact, in most cases, it does the exact opposite: spikes your blood sugar causing your body to release massive amounts of insulin, then making the blood sugar plummet and increasing the cravings for sugar even more.

One thing that researches did not mention is just exactly how many carbohydrate and fat calories in the whole meal came from dessert, were they only from dessert, or were they just a small addition to other, better carbohydrate options – an important factor in the whole equation that should not have been omitted.

By the way, the only reason why sugar might satisfy sweet and fat cravings (though in case of just sugar it is only a short-lasting effect) is when your diet is seriously out of balance, you have nutritional deficiencies, candida or parasites, or you have been working out long or hard without replenishing your glycogen stores by consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates afterwards. A comment here on sweet breakfast: many people (including yours truly) do not feel like eating meat and vegetables in the morning and would rather have something “sweet”. But that’s when natural foods like fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, wholegrain minimally processed breads, nut butters, honey and low-sugar 100% fruit spreads come in, if that’s what you crave. Dessert, in a true sense of the word, should hardly be a main option for breakfast as part of a healthy diet.

So what conclusion will most readers draw from reading the headlines (which is the only thing a majority of people read these days anyway)? That not only is it OK, but downright advisable, to have sweets for breakfast, because it will help them with their battle of the bulge. And, of course, they will be dead wrong and most will find themselves in even deeper trouble following such an insane advice.
The science and resulting lengthy advice on what to eat for breakfast is beyond the scope of this article (and it will differ from person to person), but one thing is for sure: DON’T TAKE WHAT YOU READ IN THE MEDIA AS GOOD ADVICE, EVEN IF IT CLAIMS TO BE A SCIENTIFIC STUDY (AND ESPECIALLY IF IT DEFIES COMMON SENSE), AND LOOK FOR MORE RELIABLE SOURCES OF INFORMATION WHEN YOUR HEALTH IS AT STAKE. This, however, is a whole other endeavor, and a whole other story, since most sources you have been told are trustworthy unfortunately are not.

When it comes to your own health, do the research, and take your own responsibility. The results are worth it.

Here’s the link to the original article:

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