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Finally! Scientific proof that greasy breakfasts are good for us!

April 2, 2010 |  3:14 pm

Ever wonder why eggs, bacon and fried potatoes are so popular at breakfast? A new study suggests our bodies are primed to eat high-fat meals upon waking, and that high-carbohydrate breakfasts (mmm, pancakes) set us up to be unable to process high-fat meals later in the day.

Breakfast How on Earth did scientists scrounge up some kind of proof that we’re born to eat stuff like this when we wake up? By running experiments on mice, of course.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Baylor College of Medicine kept two groups of mice. One group got a high-fat meal upon waking and a low-fat meal before bedtime; the other had the low-fat meal first and the high-fat meal for dinner. Both groups of mice consumed “identical” amounts of total calories and calories from fat.  But the mice with high-fat breakfasts had “significantly lower body weights and body fat composition” than their counterparts who ate high-fat dinners, according to their study published this week in the International Journal of Obesity.

Those weren’t the only differences. The mice that began the day with more carbs developed insulin resistance, a condition that increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They also wound up with more insulin, leptin and triglycerides circulating in their blood, which are also associated with diabetes and heart disease.

Why would it matter whether mice eat a high-fat meal for breakfast or for dinner? The researchers think it’s because that first meal of the day sets the body’s metabolism – those who eat a hearty breakfast are able to handle a regular meal at dinnertime, but those who start the day with carbs aren’t equipped to process a high-fat meal later on. Here’s how they put it:

“Consumption of a high-fat waking meal is associated with increased ability to respond appropriately to carbohydrate meals ingested later … whereas a high-carbohydrate morning meal seems to ‘fix’ the metabolism toward carbohydrate usage and impairs the ability to adjust metabolism toward fat usage later.”

However, they also point out that “a typical human diet consists of a high-carbohydrate morning meal, followed by higher fat and/or more calorie-dense meals later in the day.”

It seems we have it all backward. Perhaps the best way to tackle the obesity crisis is to start serving pancakes, waffles and cereal for dinner.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photos: It seems we should be eating eggs, bacon and fried potatoes for breakfast and saving high-carb dishes for dinner. Photo credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

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Comments (25)

"Perhaps the best way to tackle the obesity crisis is to start serving pancakes, waffles and cereal for dinner."

Perhaps the best way to tackle the obesity crisis to to stop serving pancakes, waffles, and cereal at all. This conclusion is pretty strongly supported by following the same metabolic pathways that indicate a high-fat breakfast is better. How they got all bollixed up on breakfast vs. other meals escapes me.


Yeah...that hotel breakfast of eggs, bacon, and potatoes felt good. Now I know why!

Yeah - Americans are in great shape. Bring on the bacon.

How about low fat in the morning and low fat in the evening? Wow - what a strange concept. Eat less to live longer - get interested in life instead of food. Try it, you'll like it.

Has the LA Times fallen for an April Fool joke? I can't find the article itself on the website of the International Journal of Obesity, and second-hand reports on this first appeared on the 1st of April.

Or even better, skip the high-carb meal entirely.

But of course they didn't test that. We mustn't paint ourselves into a corner where we might have to admit that "healthful fruits and grains" aren't actually healthful, must we!

what about donuts? they're fatty and delicious!

This article woefully oversimplifies the results of the study and their implications for human diets. The study does not suggest that high-fat meals should be eaten every day for breakfast--it only shows that, if two meals are eaten each day, one high-fat and one low-fat, the high-fat meal should be eaten first. Another finding of the study (one which is not mentioned) is that mice eating an all low-fat or all high-fat diet experienced a stable metabolism similar to the "high-fat first" diet, but that does not equate to a healthy diet, just a stable processing of the food eaten. The article irresponsibly suggests that a healthy diet requires a fatty breakfast, presuming that humans must eat at least one very fatty meal per day. I think the researchers would agree that a more consistently low-fat diet, including at dinner, is the healthiest diet, and that a heaping plate of fried eggs, sausage and fried potatoes is never a healthy meal. I'm afraid the theme of this article may be used by casual readers to perpetuate poor lifestyles and undercut the work of the researchers who conducted the study.

Ah, so the "eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and pauper for dinner" has real truth to it! Good to know. Might have to make more of an effort on normal workdays for a good breakfast.

Added to this, I had read that if you eat food with saturated fat then it may not be bad for health at all, unlike what it is conventionally made out to be. This is because the food does not get deposited. Only if the fatty acid is unsaturated it would become harmful. And this holds true across all meals, not only breakfast.

Or you could just avoid the pancakes, cereals and waffles all the time and your treat your metabolism the way it was born to be expect.

P.s. fried potatoes would also be high in carbohydrates.

Obesity tests using mice are unlikely to produce relevant results. They should be using pigs.

As the saying goes...
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

It isn't just high- or low-fat that's the issue. Per Gary Taubes, the investigative science journalist who wrote the exhaustively researched, "Good Calories, Bad Calories," it's carbohydrates -- sugar, flour, and easily digested starches like potatoes -- that drive the excess insulin secretion that puts on fat.

Per Taubes' title, it seems a calorie is not a calorie, and the fewer carbs you eat, the slinkier you will be. If this sounds like the Atkins Diet, that's because it basically is.

As Taubes told me when I interviewed him for my syndicated advice column, "Doctors have been saying Atkins is a quack for so long, they never bothered to check whether he actually got the science right. Unfortunately, he did and they didn't."

This study is flawed because there are two variables: The morning meal and the evening meal. We've all known for years that what you eat before bed is of great importance. It seems very unscientific to have two variables but to only attribute the results to one of them.
I want to know why the study didn't mention (or if it did, why this article didn't mention) that there is also a strong possibility that the reason for the weight difference could very well be because the second group of mice had high-fat dinners.

psssst ... mice are not humans.

we always wonder why European are not having obesity problems ,well it is exactly what we discovered heavy breakfast , main meal is lunch and very light dinner, we have it all backwards and this research is a proof that we should not be eating before bed, the calories just stay in our body instead fuel our body during day time end be burn by nigh
lets learn from Europeans

It makes sense.
In general, people are physically active in daylight.
But hours before sleep not to be so...


Now, where is the scientific corroboration that a Tommy's burger for lunch is healthy??

Pantry here i come!

In that case make my breakfast chorizo with fajita steak and flower tortillas and a biscuit and avaccado and Dr Pepper...

Interesting, score one for Brandis

That last line irked me as well, as it's completely contradictory to the rest of the article. You don't NEED cereal, waffles, and pancakes at all. Heads-up, Kaplan! The inconsistencies and hasty conclusions here quash any interest in the actual subject and it's application.

This is mildly interesting and not entirely surprising--it has long been known that refined carbohydrates can negatively impact metabolism for 6-12 hours. However I do not think we can draw conclusions about human metabolism from experiments of mice eating mouse chow. Human food and digestion are very different.


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