Dessert may be useful to dieters, study finds

Several recent studies have suggested an unlikely ally to dieters — dessert.

One study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found that choosing an indulgent dessert before the main course, but eating it afterwards, leads to more health-conscious selections for the main meal.

In the study, 70 percent of subjects who chose cheesecake for dessert before dinner tended to make healthier choices for the meal compared to those who selected dessert afterwards. Moreover, those who chose cheesecake before dinner ate about 250 calories less overall compared to those who chose the “healthier” option, fresh fruit.

“If we choose something healthy first, then this gives us a license to choose something bigger later,” said Martin Reimann, an assistant professor of marketing and cognitive science at the University of Arizona and co-author of the study. “If you turn it around and choose something heavier early on, then this license is already expired.” 

Dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin said she endorses eating a planned dessert, as it can help to diminish cravings and avoid binge-eating.

“Enjoying a daily dessert,” Zeitlin said, “helps you get ahead of your cravings and approach food in an emotionally healthy way.”

Another study, this one of obese adults conducted in Tel-Aviv, showed that those who consumed breakfasts high in carbohydrates and protein were more successful in maintaining weight loss. This high-calorie breakfast included desserts like ice cream, donuts, or chocolate.

The researchers concluded that eating sweets with a high carb and protein breakfast resulted in decreased cravings and lowered ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite and fat storage.

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