One of the central areas of disagreement between Atkins and the conventional dietetic establishment has been over the role of calories in weight loss. Conventional dietetics claims that all calories are created equal, and calories are all that matters when it comes to losing weight. At Atkins we completely agree that calories are important- but we also believe they are very far from the complete picture.
A new ingenious study gives more support to the Atkins point of view. This study, done at the Department of Psychology of St. Louis University in Missouri, and published in the International Journal of Obesity August 5, investigated whether the composition of a breakfast could influence weight and fat loss, even when calories were kept the same. Here’s what they did:
A total of 152 men and women participated. Group one (the Egg-Diet Group) was instructed to include 2 eggs in a breakfast of 340 calories, and also to eat a “low-fat” diet and overall reduce their caloric intake by 1000 calories a day. Group Two (the Bagel-Diet Group) was given the same instructions, only they were told to eat bagels for breakfast instead of eggs. For comparison purposes there were also two other groups which got no calorie restrictions or weight loss advice- one of these groups (the Egg Group) was told to eat eggs as part of their breakfast, and the other (the Bagel Group) was told to eat bagels, but other than that to make no dietary changes.
There were striking differences between Group One and Group Two. Those on the “Egg Diet” had a 61% greater reduction in BMI than those on the “Bagel Diet”. The “Egg Diet” folks also had a whopping 65% greater weight loss, a 34% greater reduction in waist circumference, and a 16% greater reduction in body fat (though this last measure was not statistically significant). (Those in group 3- eggs for breakfast- and group 4- bagels for breakfast– didn’t see any significant changes, not unexpected since they didn’t change anything else about their overall diet and lifestyle.)
This study is interesting on a number of levels. While it shows that merely adding eggs (or bagels) to your menu doesn’t make a difference by itself, (not surprising if you’re still eating badly the rest of the day!), eating eggs for breakfast as opposed to bagels while you’re on a weight control diet has a significant effect on weight loss—even when all else is equal and calories are the same!
Atkins has long maintained that adequate protein is a cornerstone of a healthy weight loss program. Other research has shown that eating a high protein breakfast keeps people fuller for longer and makes folks far less likely to overeat later on. Protein also stimulates the metabolism.
The bottom line: Calories count- but they’re not the whole story. The right kind of calories- protein, healthy fat, plenty of fiber, which is the cornerstone of the Atkins Nutritional Approach – can make a major difference in the success of your weight loss program. This study strikes another nail in the coffin of the theory that “all calories are created equal”.