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Study supports wisdom of the big breakfast

By staff reporter , 18-Jun-2008

Researchers from Venezuela and the US have reported that a big breakfast rich in carbohydrates, followed by low-carb, low-calorie eating for the rest of the day, was seen to help dieters with weight loss.

Low-carb diets were all the rage around five years ago, and the trend was picked up by some players in the food industry who were keen to cater to consumers' weight loss plans. However the trend proved to be relatively short-lived. By 2005, Atkins Nutritionals, the best-known low-carb diet brand, had filed for bankruptcy. It emerged a more slimline operation, propounding an approach that had much in common with the low-glycaemic diet which favours slow-energy release carbs. The new research, presented yesterday at The Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco, was conducted by Dr Daniela Jakubowicz, MD, of the Hospital de Clinicas in Caracas, Venezuela, with colleagues from the Virginia Commonwealth University in the US. The findings appear to support traditional wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Forty-six women followed a very low carb diet for eight months. They were allowed just 1085 calories per day, with 17g of carbohydrates, 51g of protein and 78g of fat. For this group, breakfast was the smallest meal of the day, with just 7g of carbs from foods like bread, fruit, cereal and milk and 12g of protein from meat or eggs. Another 48 women followed the 'big breakfast diet', which included 1240 calories a day, 46g of fat, 97g of carbs and 93g of protein. The 610-calorie breakfast included 58g of carbs, 47g of protein and 22g of fat; lunch was 395 calories, with 34g carbs, 28g protein and 13g fat; and dinner was 235 calories, with 5g carbs, 18g protein and 26g fat. After the initial four months weight loss period, there was not a great difference in the losses achieved by the two groups of women. In the very low carb diet weight loss averaged 28lbs (12.7kg), and in the big breakfast group 21lbs (9.5kg). However in the second four month period, which was focused on weigh maintenance, the low carb dieters gained an average of 18lbs (8.2kg). The big breakfast group, on the other hand, was seen to lose another 16.5lbs (7.5kg) on average. Women in this group reported feeling less hungry, especially in the mornings, and having fewer cravings for carbohydrates. Dr Jakubowicz, who says she has used the big-breakfast diet with her patients for 15 years, says the approach is healthier as it allows people to eat more fruit, and therefore have more fibre and vitamins in their diet. The very low carb diet, she said, "exacerbates the craving for carbohydrates and slows metabolism. As a result, after a short period of weight loss, there is a quick return to obesity". She added that such diets do not address addictive eating impulses, which may indicate that the low-carb group gained weight because the participants were unable to stick with the regime. The publication status of the study is not know; full methodology, results and discussion have not been seen by FoodNavigator.com.

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