Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz (we’ll call her Dr. J from here on out) and some other researchers in Tel Aviv recently published a study in the journal, Steroids, called “Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults“. The media is all over it right now because they’ve concluded from this study that, in Dr. J’s own words, “Eating chocolate cake as part of a full breakfast can help you lose weight.”
When my friend sent me this via Facebook, I was immediately outraged. Without even looking at the study I had a gripping hunch that there was some flaw in it, and that the media had probably blown the results of the study way out of proportion. After reading through an article on it from the Telegraph, I decided I was right. But I also was reminded that there’s a whole lot to nutrition and weight loss that we don’t yet understand.
Here’s what the study actually found out. They took 193 obese people and split them up into two groups. They gave one group a 300-calorie low carb breakfast and the other group a 600-calorie breakfast that included chocolate cake. The latter group had about 40 pounds more sustained weight loss than the low-carb group.
After 4 months, both groups lost on average about 33 pounds. Then in the second half, from month 4 to month 8, the low-carb, 300-calorie breakfast group regained about 22 pounds while the cake eaters lost an additional 15 pounds. Finally, the ghrelin levels were reduced more after breakfast in the cake group than the low carb group. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates hunger. It’s supposed to decrease after meals. The cake eaters felt more satisfied and their hunger and craving scores were significantly less than the low carb group’s.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy these people found sustained weight loss. I’m thrilled. But really, is this the way to go about it? Are they really as healthy as they could be, eating cake every day? I can think of a diet that would have perhaps garnered even better health results than the cake diet…
3 of My Issues with the Study
1. It’s pretty common knowledge that if you eat fewer calories in the morning, you’re going to be hungrier and more unsatisfied later than if you ate more calories in the morning. The cake group ate 300 calories more than the low-carb group, so it seems pretty predictable to me that they’d be hungrier and have more cravings. Is it possible that if the 600-calorie breakfast group had eaten 300 calories worth of fruit, veggies, fish, doughnuts, McDonald’s, or dirt… they would have had the same results? If they wanted to do a good study, the calorie count should have stayed the same in both groups.
2. Dr. J. thinks it’s best to curb your sweet craving every day with glutenous, sugar vehicles, stating that “…eating every day those sweet that you like more i.e. chocolate or doughnuts or cakes, makes you every day less addicted and indifferent when you see that sweets or cookies.” So basically, if you’re an addict, you’d better satiate your addiction every day to be as minimally addicted as possible. So if I really like cocaine, is just a little bit everyday good for me?
3. This is my favorite quote of Dr. J’s on her blog. “We have to add enough proteins to inhibit the hunger and the sweets to counteract the addiction for sweets. In other words if you feel hunger by noon it means that proteins in the breakfast were not enough. If you feel desire for sweets in the afternoon it means that you forget a cookie in the breakfast.”
I mean, that last line is priceless. But the first lines are actually important. What they found in the study (again) is that protein satisfies hunger, and that the carb along with the protein helped keep people (at least, sugary carb addicted people) fuller and having fewer cravings later in the day. That’s NOT, however, what the media is portraying about this study. It’s all about the damn cake. So now people everywhere are going to feel better about themselves for eating cake and cookies for breakfast because Dr. J thinks they’re a necessary part of a weight loss program. I, for one, disagree.