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.
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