Let them eat cake! Er, for breakfast, that is. A new study out of Tel Aviv University suggests that it’s okay to indulge your sweet tooth if you’re dieting—as long as you do so early in the day.
Here’s the deal: Researchers selected 193 obese adults to be part of two separate diet groups. Both groups adhered to a stringent daily calorie count: 1,600 calories a day for men and 1,400 calories a day for women. One diet group had to stick to a low-carb diet that included a 300 calorie breakfast, while the latter lucky ducks not only got to scarf a 600 calorie, protein- and carb-heavy breakfast, they also got to munch on desserts such as cookies, cake and even ice cream.
By the end of the initial 16-week period, both groups had lost a whopping 33 pounds per person on average, but at a 16-week follow-up, the researchers discovered something very surprising: The low-carb group had regained most of the weight they had lost (around 22 pounds, on average), while the dessert-at-breakfast eaters had continued to slim down to the tune of another 15 pounds.
While the researchers contend that the second group was able to lower their levels of ghrelin—the hormone responsible for food cravings—by indulging early on (thus preventing pig-outs later), we’re somewhat skeptical. After all, in a country where overdosing on sugar has reached epidemic proportions, encouraging people to eat sweets and suggesting that they’re actually conducive to weight loss sounds downright dangerous.
QUIZ: What’s Your Eating Style?
Still, could nibbling on that cupcake in the morning make the difference between diet success and derailment? We asked Cleveland Clinic dietician and YouBeauty Nutrition Advisor Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., to “weigh in,” so to speak, and she agreed that something about this diet sounded a little too sweet to be true. “Americans are eating too much sugar, period, so this is a confusing study because it sends the message that eating chocolate cake every day with breakfast is okay and can even help you lose weight, and that’s not right,” explains Kirkpatrick. “Limiting calorie intake, eating less and burning more will always be the way to lose weight.”
While Kirkpatrick acknowledges that the occasional indulgence can psychologically help prevent dieters keep from going “hog wild,” which may have been the case in this study, she also points out that by starting your morning eating sweets—which are incredibly addictive—you set the stage for sugary cravings all day.
READ MORE: What’s Causing Your Sugar Cravings?
Instead, she recommends pairing a protein and a complex carb (think a hard-boiled egg and a piece of whole grain toast) to jolt your metabolism and regulate glucose levels. Notice she did not mention adding Yodels to the menu—sorry folks!
And if you’re just completely going to lose it if you don’t eat a chocolate chip cookie pronto? It’s okay to go for it—once in a while. Your waistline may thank you.
READ MORE: Children’s Breakfast Cereals: The New Junk Food?