Saturday, September 10, 2005

Study Affirms Breakfast Really Is Most Important Meal Of The Day

We have heard it over the course of our entire lives that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Now there is new evidence that suggests this traditional adage passed off by many doctors as healthy advice for generations is actually true.

This USA Today story noted the study was conducted by the Maryland Medical Research Institute and was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and (gee, what a surprise!) General Mills, which makes such popular so-called "healthy" breakfast cereals such as Cheerios, Chex, and Wheaties as well as some other heavily-sugared cereals like Lucky Charms, Trix, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

The decade-long study observed the breakfast eating habits of 2,379 girls age 9-10 from Berkeley, California, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Washington, DC. The researchers wanted to know how eating breakfast affected the body mass index of the girls. The conclusion of the study found that the girls who ate breakfast on a regular basis weighed less than those girls who decided to skip breakfast.

In what I am sure brought a smile to the faces of the General Mills executives, the study also found that the girls who ate fiber-rich cereal for breakfast were even thinner. The girls who ate any breakfast had an average body mass index .7 units lower than the girls who passed on breakfast. But the breakfast cereal eaters saw an average body mass index that was 1.65 units lower than that.

These study results appear in the current issue (September 2005) of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

President and CEO of the Maryland Medical Research Institute Bruce A. Barton said his study proves that "not eating breakfast is the worst thing you can do."

"That's really the take-home message for teenage girls," he said.

Barton concluded that the fiber in the cereal along with milk and orange juice attributed to those study participants who had a lower body mass index. The ultimate conclusion of the study and what they want you to remember is that eating cereal is a great way to start your day to help you be happy and healthy over the course of your life.

This all sounds good, doesn't it? With about a third of young girls in the United States currently overweight or obese, we should be jumping for joy at the results of this study, right?

While the message of making sure children eat breakfast is certainly a good one, I think we should be very careful about the kinds of foods we are feeding our children in the mornings because all breakfasts are NOT the same.

I sincerely doubt that a 9-year old girl who stuffs an Egg McMuffin from McDonald's down her throat every day is going to be thinner than one who skips that meal. Or how about the 10-year old who begs her mommy to let her have 3-4 doughnuts on the way to school? Is she really eating better and more apt to be thin than her starving peers? These are rhetorical questions that everyone knows the answer to already.

The fact that this study focused on the fiber content of the breakfast cereals as the reason why the study participants who ate them were thinner and healthier is indeed good news for people adhering to a low-carb lifestyle. Fiber is, of course, a carbohydrate, but it is a VERY GOOD carbohydrate that you should consume lots of when you are livin' la vida low-carb.

An Austin, Texas-based certified strength and conditioning specialist named James Garland sent me an e-mail this week stating that he has found in his experience working with overweight and obese people that "people should be getting lots of fiber" in their diet to improve their weight problem and overall health.

"What I've gone to is telling people that my program is 'low sugar, low starch, high fiber, and moderate protein.'  I sometimes tell people my program is actually high-carb, but low in starch and sugar.  I have them eating the nutrient-rich, non-starchy vegetables and they love it as long as there is variety, and if it's done right, there is PLENTY of variety."

Garland is exactly right. Usually when I refer to carbs at this blog, I am talking about the "net" carbs minus the fiber and sugar
alcohols. I like the added emphasis on "high fiber" because it does deflate one of the more popular criticisms against this way of eating. While we like to describe our lifestyle change as "low-carb," it really isn't that low if you are eating the amount of fiber your body needs each day. In fact, my current carb intake including all carbohydrates is probably close to 150-175 carbs per day! How's that for ruffling the feathers of the anti-Atkins crowd?

"This takes all the wind out of the enemies sails and it leaves them standing there looking quite ignorant," Garland added in his e-mail.

So eating fiber at breakfast is obviously a good thing that this study confirms. Additionally, eating something for breakfast may prevent you from overeating when you are ravenously hungry at lunchtime. Barton agrees.

"We think it kick-starts your metabolism because you've eaten something," Barton said. "When you get to lunch you're not starving and you can make reasonable choices for lunch and dinner."

But we must come back to the question of WHAT is eaten at breakfast. While General Mills will most certainly take the data from this study and quite possibly use it in their marketing efforts to promote their cereals, I think it is misleading for people to conclude that this study gives them the right to eat cereal every single day as a way to lose weight. That would be a foolish assumption to make based solely on this study alone.

The vast majority of breakfast cereals on the supermarket shelves today are just loaded with way too much sugar. Lucky Charms might be "magically delicious," but they're realistically adding pounds to our kid's bodies. And the popular "Trix is for kids" slogan should be changed to "Trix is for FAT kids." General Mills launched a huge campaign this year attempting to position their product as healthier and more in line with the USDA recommendations.

But as much as they try to sugarcoat it (all pun intended!) with their advertising, General Mills is simply trying to divert attention away from the massive amount of sugar that in contained in their products. It is just outrageous for a company to claim their product is good and healthy when it is nothing more than breakfast candy. In other words, it's wasted carbs! Low-fat advocates always talk about "empty calories," so why aren't they just as concerned about "empty carbs?"

But you have to remember, sugar is "fat-free" so it doesn't bother these low-fatties. They can sit there all day long and gorge themselves on all the sugar their body wants. It's fat-free, it's fat-free. But how incredibly stupid do you have to be to believe that is a healthy way to eat?! How about the neverending cycle of sugar spikes and crashes that you endure when you are addicted to sugar and the strong grip it can and will have on your body?

Sugar is STILL responsible for the obesity epidemic in the United States and most people are beginning to realize this fact more and more by cutting back on their consumption of it. Why else has the Sugar Association and their attack dogs been watching this blog's comments about sugar in recent months and even going after competing companies like the makers of Splenda?

This study did not show any distinction between the sugar content of the cereals that were eaten by the participants. You cannot assume they all ate "healthy" cereals or sugary cereals because that information is simply not available. It would have been an interesting further breakdown in the study, though.

I'm also wondering why girls were the only ones observed in this study. Why weren't 9-10 year old boys examined, too? Don't they have just as much of an obesity problem as their female counterparts? I'd be interested in seeing if the same conclusions can be made about boys as there was for girls regarding breakfast consumption.

Eating breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. I believe that statement wholeheartedly and highly recommend anyone who is on a low-carb lifestyle to NEVER skip breakfast. If you do, then you are simply setting yourself up for temptation and probable failure in your weight loss attempts. Breakfast really should be your favorite meal of the day when you are low-carbin' it because you can eat lots of delicious low-carb foods such as eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, ham and much more! So, eat up and live well. That's the livin' la vida low-carb way!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home