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Sweet Justification

26 Apr

I have a confession: I eat dessert for breakfast all the time. Especially cookies, but I occasionally go for pie, cake, or whatever sugar-loaded food happens to be around. When Girl Scout cookies are in season, I eat Tagalongs for breakfast every day, for weeks. (I figure they’re healthier than the other kinds because of all the protein in the peanut butter. Right?) Whenever I behave myself and eat “real” breakfast items, they’re just desserts in disguise: Fruity Pebbles, sugary granola bars, cheerios with chocolate chips mixed in. Ted’s family-size box of Grape Nuts almost can’t stand to share a pantry with my breakfast food.

But now, thanks to SCIENCE, I no longer have to be ashamed of my breakfast choices. A recent study by Jakubowicz, Froy, Wainstein, and Boaz (2012) randomly assigned obese, sedentary, non-diabetic participants (n=193) to one of two groups: a group instructed to eat a high-carbohydrate, high-protein breakfast that included a dessert, and a group that ate a low-carbohydrate breakfast that did not include a dessert. All participants were placed on an isocaloric diet, and the groups differed only in their breakfast assignment. While there were no significant differences in weight loss between the  two groups at the end of the diet intervention, participants in the group who had eaten a dessert as part of breakfast continued to lose weight weeks after the intervention ended, and weight regain was observed only in the group that did not eat a dessert in the morning. Participants who had a dessert at breakfast also reported significantly lower hunger and fewer cravings.

The authors suggested that this surprising finding may be attributable to reduced reinforcer value: that is, when you get a dessert every morning, it loses some of its “specialness,” and cravings don’t occur as often. As noted by Jakubowicz et al., “In many weight loss diets, energy is restricted concomitantly with the restricted intake of preferred foods, leading to an increase in the reinforcement value of the omitted or restricted food. This may be expressed as increased cravings for the desired food. In contrast, repeated reinforcer presentation leads to a reduction of reinforcer efficacy and reduced motivation to obtain the desired food. It is possible that the consumption of sweets at breakfast in the [dessert] diet group (chocolate bar, chocolate mousse, cake, or donut) represents repeated reinforcement leading to reduced cravings” (2012).

Take THAT, Grape Nuts! This study proves* that I’m making choices that support a healthy weight! Can’t wait for science to find support for all my other bad habits.

*SOME people might say that one study does not constitute a body of proof. But I can’t hear what they’re saying because this cookie I’m eating is very crunchy and it drowns out all sounds.

Source: Jakubowicz, D., Froy, O., Wainstein, J., & Boaz, M. (2012). Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults. Steroids, 77(4), 323-331. doi:10.1016/j.steroids.2011.12.006.

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