Roundup: Big Breakfast Benefit; Vitamin D During Pregnancy; and Potatoes Can Be Nutritious

A Big Breakfast, Small Dinner Combination is Best for Weight Control, New Research Says

Portion size and timing have emerged as key factors in losing or managing weight. Now, new research finds that having a large breakfast — and a smaller dinner — could prevent obesity and high blood sugar, and promote better weight management.

The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that eating a big breakfast can help you burn more calories throughout the day. But for this to occur, a person needs to consumer fewer calories at dinnertime.

The focus of researchers was the bodily process known as diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). It measures how well metabolism is working, and it can differ depending on mealtime. The higher your DIT, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off. A high metabolism can also give you more energy and make you feel better.

“Our results show that a meal eaten for breakfast, regardless of the amount of calories it contains, creates twice as high diet-induced thermogenesis as the same meal consumed for dinner,” said the study’s co-author, Juliane Richter, Ph.D., of the University of Lübeck in Germany. “This finding is significant for all people as it underlines the value of eating enough at breakfast.”

The researchers based their findings on a three-day laboratory study of 16 men. They consumed a low-calorie breakfast and high-calorie dinner, and vice-versa. They found identical calorie consumption led to 2.5 times higher DIT in the morning than in the evening after high-calorie and low-calorie meals. The food-induced increase of blood sugar and insulin concentrations was diminished after breakfast compared with dinner.

“The results also show eating a low-calorie breakfast increased appetite, specifically for sweets,” a news release on the study states.

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High Dose of Vitamin D During Pregnancy May Improve Kids’ Bone Health, Researchers Find

The benefits of taking vitamins during pregnancy are backed by leading health institutions and previous clinical studies. New research from Denmark that focuses on vitamin D finds that pregnant women who take a larger dose than normally recommended may provide greater benefit to their offspring’s bone health.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, randomized 517 women to take either a 2,400-unit vitamin D supplement or a placebo from 24 weeks of pregnancy until one week after birth. In addition, all the women were advised to take a 400-unit vitamin D supplement, which is what is widely recommended by Danish health officials.

The researchers monitored the offspring with periodic bone scans through age 6, recording bone density and evidence of fractures. Over all, children whose mothers took the total of 2,800 units had significantly higher bone density at age 6, compared to children in the placebo group. The strongest effect was observed in mothers who had baseline vitamin D insufficiency and among children born during the winter months, said Nicklas Brustad, M.D., of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and her research colleagues.

About 7 percent of children whose mothers consumed the high vitamin D dose suffered bone fractures by age 6, compared with 11 percent in the placebo group. The high doses had no effect on birth weight, or on the height or weight of the 6-year-old children.

All pregnant women should consult with the doctor regarding the proper dose of vitamin D supplements.

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Potatoes can be Part of a Healthy Diet — But Not Fries or Chips, Study Says

Potatoes get a bad wrap because they’re consumed mostly as fries or chips, instead of healthier variations. As long as they are steamed or baked — and prepared with without adding too much salt or saturated fat, potatoes can be key to a healthy diet, according to a study by nutritionists at The Pennsylvania State University.

Consuming non-fried potatoes can also produce higher potassium and fiber levels, compared to eating refined grains, such as white rice, white bread or pasta, researchers said. The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

“We don’t want people to fear the potato, but we want to make sure that they eat it in a healthful way and in a controlled portion size,” Emily Johnston, study co-author and a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences at Penn State, told

For the study, 50 healthy adults were recruited and their baseline blood pressure and arterial stiffness measured at the start. Their blood samples were checked for fasting glucose, cholesterol, insulin and other markers. Those checks were repeated throughout the study.

They were randomly assigned to replace their usual starchy side dish with either 200 calories of potatoes or refined grains, as prepared by the Metabolic Diet Study Center at Penn State. They stayed on the assigned diet for four weeks. Potato side dishes included steamed or baked red, white and gold spuds. Refined grain options included Spanish rice, pasta, garlic bread and naan flatbread.

After a break of at least two weeks, they switched to the opposite side dish, eating it with their primary meal every day for another four weeks. The study participants’ potassium and fiber intake was significantly higher when they ate potatoes, compared to refined grains, researchers concluded. There were no indications that eating potatoes increased fasting glucose levels, and there was no difference in cholesterol, insulin or other key markers.

Potatoes are a rich source of potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium is lost through urine. Potassium also helps to ease tension in the blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure.

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