Website offers great tips on how to eat smart, move more
Dear Readers: A shout out to all the students, faculty and staff starting a new year at ECU. We hope that they will all be inspired to eat smart and move more to ensure great performance. There are lots of great tips on the North Carolina Eat Smart Move More website. www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com
Q Most diets that I read about eliminate most carbohydrates and pretty much all desserts. Is there a way to incorporate sweets into a diet to stay happy, while still losing weight? — C.J.L., Winterville
A While nutritionists typically say “a calorie is a calorie regardless of its source,” scientists continue to try and determine if the composition of meals impacts weight management.
I asked Sarah Bennett, a third-year Brody student, to explain the findings of a new study from the journal Steroid, which publishes research about hormones, and in this case a particular hormone response to dieting.
The researchers wanted to know if eating a sweet for breakfast can help you maintain weight loss. Their answer is, it might. In this study, the authors tested an idea that the nutrient makeup of a diet and the daily timing of those nutrients can affect how full a person feels, how strong their food cravings are, and ultimately how well they maintain weight loss.
The researchers compared two diets with an identical amount of calories, but with different types of nutrients eaten for breakfast. Half of the participants ate a low-carbohydrate breakfast while the others ate a high-carbohydrate food like a doughnut, plus protein, such as a lean meat or egg. Both groups were followed for 16 weeks on the diet and another 16 weeks after the diet.
During the study, the participants had factors such as insulin, ghrelin and food-craving scores measured. Ghrelin is the hormone that contributes to the feeling of hunger.
The group that ate a sweet and protein for breakfast was actually able to lose more weight and keep from regaining that weight than the low-carb group. Those who ate the sweets also had lower food cravings and less of an appetite.
The researchers noted that the high-carb plus protein group had a measured decrease in their ghrelin levels both directly after breakfast and overall during the duration of the study. The decreased levels helped them eat less and lose more weight.
The authors hypothesize that the results are due in part to a common behavioral phenomenon known as reinforcement. Most likely, you have experienced wanting something more after you were told you could not have it. So the researchers proposed that those who were allowed to have a sweet did not crave sweets as strongly and that may have allowed them to have better success with the diet. This study gives merit to the idea of appropriate timing and use of desserts in a weight loss plan.
As anyone who has been on a diet can attest, food cravings and hunger pangs often derail good intentions. By allowing ourselves to schedule a sweet early in our day, we may ensure better success overall.
However, don’t overinterpret the results of this study — it does not say that eating unlimited calories or high-carb diets will lead to weight loss. It does suggest that a person might be more successful in weight loss and maintenance if they don’t completely cut out sweets.
Well-known dieting advice tells us that substituting healthier sugars such as fruits and low-fat yogurts, instead of cakes and doughnuts is a good way to satisfy sweet cravings. Conventional wisdom says decreasing calorie intake and increasing calorie-burning exercise are the pillars of weight loss. Both of these ideas should be the core around which you, with the help of your family physician or nutritionist, design a weight-loss plan that is right for you. But don’t feel like you are cheating when you have a well-placed and well-intentioned sweet. Maybe it is possible to have your cake and eat it, too.
Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian and Ph.D., works with the Family Medicine Center, Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at [email protected]