Now might be the time to pitch the Pop Tarts, toss the Twinkies, and dump the Ding Dongs if you’re grabbing them in the morning as you head out the door.
Three 2013 studies from Tel Aviv University found that subjects lost more weight, controlled their insulin levels, and women increased their fertility by making a big breakfast the largest meal their day.
“The time of day we eat can have a big impact on the way our bodies process food,” TAU professor Daniela Jakubowicz, of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the diabetes unit at Wolfson Medical Center, told TAU staff. “Metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythm.”
The study team included Dr. Julio Wainstein, also of the TAU and Wolfson Medical Center, and Dr. Maayan Barnea and Prof. Oren Froy from Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
According to Jakubowicz, it’s okay to have a piece of cake or some cookies with breakfast if it’s followed by a moderate lunch and a smaller dinner.
While it may sound too good to be true, the study results are significant.
Using this meal plan, the first study published in the research journal Obesity found that 93 non-diabetic females all lost weight, but those who ate a large breakfast as their biggest meal of the day also shrunk their waist size significantly.
The 30-to-57-year-old women ate 1,400 calories a day for 12 weeks and continued their normal activity. Half ate a big breakfast and the other half a big dinner, and each group ate a moderately sized lunch. All were tested and measured every two weeks.
“Body weight decreased significantly in both the breakfast and dinner groups over 12 weeks,” the study reported, “however, compared with the dinner group, the breakfast group showed a 2.5-fold greater weight loss.”
Breakfast was eaten between 6 a.m, and 9 a.m., lunch between noon and 3 p.m., and dinner was consumed between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The small breakfast of 200 calories included the scrambled whites of two eggs, five slices of turkey breast, and one large black coffee.
The largest meal, whether breakfast or dinner, was a 700-calorie menu with two slices of whole wheat bread, four ounces of water-packed tuna, 16 ounces of skim milk, one bar of milk chocolate, a half-cup of sweet tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad, and one large black coffee.
The medium lunch totaled 500 calories and featured a 5-oz. grilled chicken breast, one cup of melon, a 12-oz. diet cola, one tablespoon of light mayonnaise, one can of beef broth soup, and one cup of green salad.
“A high-calorie breakfast with reduced intake at dinner is beneficial,” the study concluded, “and might be a useful alternative for the management of obesity and a combination of several abnormalities, including abdominal obesity, glucose intolerance, and hypertension.”
PCOS sufferers can also benefit
A second study by Jakubowicz and her team published in Clinical Science, showed that the same adjustment in food timing greatly increased fertility in women who suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition where the overproduction of insulin collects in the ovaries, encouraging testosterone production, which suppresses fertility.
Researchers followed 60 non-obese women to see if meal management could affect their insulin levels.
Two groups consumed an 1,800-calorie daily menu of the same foods, but one group ate a 983-calorie breakfast, a 645-calorie lunch, and a 190-calorie dinner, while the second ate the portion calories in reverse.
After three months, they were tested for insulin, glucose, and testosterone levels as well as ovulation and menstruation.
The “big breakfast” women reduced their insulin resistance by 56 percent, resulting in 50 percent less testosterone, which led to a “dramatic increase in ovulation frequency — measures that have a direct impact on fertility,” according to Jakubowicz.
By the study’s end, she said, participants had higher levels of progesterone and saw a 50 percent rise in their ovulation rate.
Meal management and Type 2 diabetes
A third study published in Obesity, with male and female Type 2 diabetics, showed that eating a large breakfast with extra protein and fat gave them more control over their blood-sugar levels to the point that they could lower their insulin doses.
Dr. Hadas Rabinovitz and her team from The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture Food and Environment Institute of Biochemistry and Food Science, Hebrew University, and the epidemiology and research unit of the Wolfson Medical Center followed 59 overweight and obese diabetic adults for three months.
The subjects followed the same pattern — either eating a large or small breakfast.
Both groups lost weight, but the “large breakfast” group had lower blood pressure, needed lower medication doses, and was less hungry.
“A simple dietary manipulation enriching breakfast with energy as protein and fat,” wrote HU researcher Dr. Zecharia Madar, “appears to confer metabolic benefits and might be a useful alternative for the management of Type 2 diabetes.”
Longtime JTNews correspondent and freelance journalist Janis Siegel has covered international health research for SELF magazine and campaigns for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.