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The American custom of having doughnuts for breakfast has long been derided as a crime against health and one of the factors contributing to the obesity epidemic in the US.
However a Tel Aviv University study has found that people who ate a high calorie breakfast, including a small portion of something sweet like chocolate, a doughnut, a biscuit, or cake, were more likely to keep weight off in the post-study period.
The study's leader, Dr Daniela Jakubowicz, and her team at Tel Aviv University's Wolfson Medical Center split 193 non-diabetic obese men and women into two groups.
One group was given a 600-calorie breakfast, which included the small sweet item, a 500-calorie lunch and a 300-calorie dinner. The second group's meals were reversed, so they started with the 300-calorie meal and finished the day with a 600-calorie dinner.
Both groups lost on average between 13 and 15kg during the four months of the study, but the 600-calorie breakfast group lost on average a further 6.8kg in the four month maintenance period after the study finished. The light breakfast group however put on 10kg in the same period.
Importantly for people trying to lose weight, the big breakfast group reported a decrease in hunger and food cravings during the day, which Dr Jakubowicz suggested may be due to the sweet course consumed in the morning.
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Tests showed that the big-breakfasters on average experienced a 42.5 per cent drop in the amount of ghrelin, a hormone associated with triggering hunger, while the second group recorded a small decrease of 29.5 per cent.
The issue of satiety, feeling full at the end of a meal, has increasingly become a talking point in the health and diet industry, part of a backlash against the dominance of low-fat products since the eighties.
You're likely to hear growing chatter about 'good fats', such as coconut oil, which in recent years has been blacklisted by health experts as a saturated fat.
At the same time movements such as Sarah Wilson's 'IQS' program, which highlights the prevalence of hidden sugars in many purported health foods, are increasingly popular.
The Tel Aviv University study's findings had a cool reception among some nutritionists, who queried the wisdom of encouraging overweight people to eat sweet things, or 'trigger foods'.
Lisa Young, an NYU professor of nutrition, told the Huffington Post in the US that many of her clients had trouble stopping at just one dessert.
"I do not think it sends out a good message for dieters who often have difficulty with portion control, especially for desserts," she said.
Related: Sarah Wilson quits sugar
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