Last week here at Diabetes Flashpoints, we discussed what distinguishes “good” from “bad” carbs. While the nutritional merits of some carbohydrate-rich foods are in dispute (white potatoes, for example), there are certain foods that nearly everyone agrees are nutritionally inferior sources of carbohydrate — such as chocolate cake. But thanks to a new study on diet and weight loss, even sugary confections are not as easy to categorize as they once seemed.
The study, conducted at Tel Aviv University in Israel and published in the journal Steroids, examined the effects of two different diets on 193 obese adults without diabetes. According to an article on the study at Global News, both diets contained the same number of calories — 1600 for men, 1400 for women — but one was a low-carb diet whose breakfast contained 300 calories, and the other diet contained a high-carb, high-protein 600-calorie breakfast that included sweets as well as lower-sugar sources of carbohydrate. Halfway through the 32-week study, both groups had experienced the same level of weight loss — an average of 33 pounds per person. But at the end of the study period, members of the low-carb group had regained an average of 22 pounds. Members of the higher-carb, big-breakfast group, on the other hand, lost an average of 15 pounds during the second half of the study.
There are several potential explanations for this perhaps surprising result. Breakfast, as the study’s lead researcher notes in the Global News article, helps the body regulate its metabolism for the rest of the day — meaning that a smaller breakfast could lead to a slower metabolism. It appears that breakfast also plays a role in regulating the hormone ghrelin, which helps control hunger by stimulating appetite.
Of course, it is possible that in this study, the major factor in the greater weight loss experienced by the higher-carb group was not cakes or sweets, but simply a higher level of carbohydrate or calories for breakfast. By repeating the study with two extra groups — a low-carb group that receives a 600-calorie breakfast, and a higher-carb group that receives all “healthy” carbohydrates (oatmeal, whole-wheat toast) as part of its 600-calorie breakfast — researchers could determine more precisely which factors play a role in weight loss.
Until then, what is your impression of this study — do you believe that foods such as cakes and pastries, traditionally considered “empty calories,” can be part of a healthy diet, or even aid in weight loss? In your experience, does including some sweets in your diet help control cravings for them, or does avoiding them help banish cravings? What do you typically eat for breakfast — is a large one the way to go? Leave a comment below!