Lose Weight with Oatmeal?
Q. I recently heard that eating oatmeal for breakfast can help you lose weight. Can you tell me if this is true, and what it is about oatmeal that would make it a diet food?
Results of a study announced last year by obesity researchers at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City suggest that oatmeal can help with weight loss by curbing your appetite for lunch. The study involved two groups of 16 volunteers (eight men, eight women) -- none of whom were dieting, but half of the participants were overweight. They were randomly given one of three breakfasts: 350 calories of oatmeal, 350 calories of sugared cornflakes, or just a glass of water. Hunger and appetite were then measured three times: just after breakfast, an hour and a half later, and at lunchtime (three hours later). The volunteers who had eaten oatmeal were less hungry at all three points and ate 30 percent less at lunch than the volunteers who had the cornflake breakfast. It appears the overweight participants who ate oatmeal benefited the most -- they were less likely to be hungry and ate less at lunch than any of the other volunteers.
The researchers theorize that the fiber in oatmeal may slow the rate of emptying from the stomach. The appetites of the volunteers who had the oatmeal breakfasts remained satiated longer. Surprisingly, the volunteers who ate the sugared cornflakes for breakfast were just as hungry at lunchtime as those who only had a glass of water for breakfast. (You should know that this study was supported by the Quaker Oats Company.)
At this point, no one knows for sure whether having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning will help you lose weight over the long term by reducing your appetite for lunch. However, the study results do correspond with those from a larger one sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. They found that the less fiber you get in your diet, the more likely you are to gain weight.
If you decide to try the "oatmeal diet," be sure to do it with non-fat milk. Cream or whole milk would add both calories and fat -- and sabotage your dietary strategy. Bear in mind, if you're trying to lose weight by cutting back on carbohydrates, oatmeal registers pretty high on the glycemic index. And finally, unlike some fad diets, even if oatmeal doesn't live up to the hype, at least you'll know it contains soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol.