Turns out, that morning chocolate-chip scone may not wreck your diet after all. In fact, it might help you stick to your weight-loss goals.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University report that eating dessert with breakfast — cookies or cake, for instance — can help dieters lose more weight. The study was originally published in March in the journal Steroids and is being presented Monday at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Houston.
Bear in mind, the results don’t suggest that everybody should simply add a glazed doughnut to their morning meal. The study looked specifically at people eating strict low-calorie diets — 1,600 calories a day for men; 1,400 calories a day for women. The research included nearly 200 nondiabetic obese adults, who were randomly assigned to one of two low-calorie-diet groups; both were identical except for breakfast: one group (the lucky ones) ate a 600-calorie high-carb breakfast that came with a choice of a cookie, chocolate, cake or a doughnut for dessert. The other group ate a 300-calorie low-carb breakfast. Both breakfasts were rich in proteins, as they included tuna, egg whites, cheese and low-fat milk.
Women in the dessert-with-breakfast group were allowed 500 calories for lunch and about 300 calories for dinner; men in that group had a 600-calorie limit for lunch and up to 464 calories for dinner.
After 16 weeks on the diet, both groups had lost weight — about 33 lb. on average — suggesting that both diets worked about the same. But in the final 16 weeks of the study, the follow-up period, those in the low-carb group had regained an average of 22 lb., while those indulging in dessert in the morning went on to lose another 15 lb. on average.
The dessert group reported feeling less hunger and fewer cravings than the other participants; their food diaries showed they were also better at sticking to their calorie limits. What’s more, dessert eaters showed greater drops of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin after breakfast — 45%, vs. a 30% drop for the low-carb dieters.
“The goal of a weight-loss diet should be not only weight reduction but also reduction of hunger and cravings, thus helping prevent weight regain,” lead study author Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz said in a statement.
The authors say weight-loss success lies in the timing and composition of dieters’ meals. Their high-protein breakfasts reduced hunger, while the addition of carbs increased satiety and the sweet dessert cut down on cravings. Allowing yourself little treats is a key strategy, says Jakubowicz, because they keep you satisfied; if you restrict yourself to a totally sweet-free meal plan, you’re more likely to break down at some point and binge on diet-busting foods.
Upon the study’s initial release, Jakubowicz told the New York Times, “Most people simply regain weight, no matter what diet they are on … But if you eat what you like, you decrease cravings. The cake — a small piece — is important.”