Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oatmeal vs Eggs, or the Volumetric Myth

Eager proponents of oatmeal argue that eating it for breakfast keeps the hunger away well into afternoon. I have always been skeptical about this, because the same effect could also be caused by one's habitual daily eating rhythm - if you choose to eat a late lunch for a few days, then the body (brains, that is) adapts to this and you won't get hungry until afternoon regardless of what you ate in the morning. Typical food satiation tests will not discern this, as they mostly follow how much a person eats before feeling satiated, not so much how long he remains satiated or what their eating rhythm is.

So I decided to do what Morgan Spurlock tought us: eat nothing but oatmeal for thirty days. Well, in my case I settled for three days. Except for allowing my caffeine-addicted metabolism two hefty cups of coffee with a little cream each day, my diet will consist of water and a portion of oatmeal made in water whenever I feel hungry. Not even butter, sugar, berries, jam, or anything of caloric value in the oatmeal. I allow only sugar-free spices, chewing gum, and vitamin pills to compensate for the one-sided diet.

Day 1: I'm not accustomed to having anything but coffee for breakfast, so I don't get hungry until 9 am. Betaglucan, here I come! After a plateful of microware-prepared porridge I feel satiated and pieceful, but suddenly at 10 am I'm hungry again. A lingering hunger disturbs my work and makes me take subsequent portions at 11 am, 1 pm, 2:30 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm, 8:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 12 pm. It is really annoying to merely burp after dining and feel ready to eat again. Fortunately I have learned to spice up the oatmeal with for example sugarfree juice concentrates.

Day 2: Portions at 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 5:30 pm, 8 pm, 9:30 pm, 12 pm. I have tried various ground spices, such as peppers, cinnamon, and bitter orange. I also feel a little constipated. This is a little surprizing considering the amount of oh-so-healthy fibers I'm eating. Perhaps constipation is more a function of a change in diet instead of the diet itself.

Day 3: The constipation eases. I shall save you descriptions of my stool, let it only be noted that I felt very bureaucratic as the paperwork lasted much longer than production. Portions at 9 am, 11 am, 12:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 5 pm, 6:30 pm, 8 pm, 11 pm, and after a late night hack, at 2 am. I fall asleep counting mutton steaks.

Instead of eating properly and become satisfied for a good while, eating has turned into constant slow nibbling, just like one would eat chips or pop-corn in a movie. Even if I had set as a standard that I would never feel hungry, I did so on several occasions during the experiment. Of course I could have willed the hunger away, but that would have defeated the purpose of the experiment. After an average of nine portions of oatmeal per day, I can safely conclude that the myth that oatmeal keeps hunger away is definitely busted.

But for comparison I felt compelled to repeat the experiment with eggs. Two eggs contains almost the same amount of energy as a portion of oatmeal, but in a rich combination of proteins, fats, vitamins, and other micronutrients. The high cholesterol content of the egg yolk does not worry me - contrary to some nutritional urban myths, science has long known that dietary intake of cholesterol has little if any effect on the total blood cholesterol level. After a purge period of four days the second part of my experiment begins.

Day 1: One cooked egg at 9:30 am, two at 11 am, one at 1 pm, two at 3 pm, three at 5:30 pm, four at 8 pm. Felt very satiated. At 11:30 pm I poached two eggs with vinegar, spices, and a little artificial sweetener to give a slight sweet-and-sour taste - quite delicious!

Day 2: Three cooked eggs at 11 am, two at 3 pm, two at 5:30 pm, two at 8 pm, and two at 11:30 pm. I notice my susceptibility of hunger is declining, probably because my body is moving to ketosis where at least I begin to lose appetite.

Day 3: Three cooked eggs at 10:30 am and two at 2 pm. A sequence of meetings prevented to prompty quench my hunger until devouring four eggs at 6:30 pm. At midnight I concluded the day with two eggs deviled with hot spices and a teaspoon of cream fraiche. Ok, the cream fraiche was cheating, but insignificant in the sense of total energy value.

All in all I ate 12 and a third egg per day, and a nod of cream fraiche. Compared to the nine portions of oatmeal per day, I ate only 70% of the calories on the egg diet.

Conclusion: Volumetrics, the assumption that a person consumes less calories if he eats foods with low enery content per weight or volume, doesn't work, at least not for me on oatmeal versus eggs. Cement might work, but that I'm not going to try without the helping hand of a bunch of anarchovegans.

Note that I'm not saying oatmeal wouldn't be a healthy way to start a day - surely healthier than a slice of white toast and marmalade - nor am I suggesting anyone should eat eggs like Cool Hand Luke. This inhumane experiment was conducted in such extreme only to test the naive idea of volumetrics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you drink plenty in the porridge experiment? Fiber-rich foods require lots of fluid to go with them.

8:50 AM  
Blogger cessu said...

I drank whenever I felt thirsty. The purpose of drinking was not to douse hunger as that would spoil the experiment.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was more thinking about the constipation :)

12:19 PM  
Blogger Vera said...

Senkin masokisti. Kokeile nyt suklaalla.

2:02 PM  
Blogger cessu said...

Vera: No, I'm not quite a masochist - on the third day of the oatmeal diet while sitting in a bus I realized I was listing synonyms of "slime" my head. So please, slime me harder! Harder!

Trying the same diet with chocolate might be an interesting experiment, but unfortunately I can't eat nutritionally significant amounts of chocolate without feeling ill.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Emmuzka said...

If the point was volymetrics, why use oatmeal? You should have jumped right in and have eaten nothing but watermelon ;)

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm a bit late to the punch but I just caught this googling, and I don't think it's a good test.

Fats and proteins are metabolised differently then carbs, and will definately make you fuller.

Second, you are doing weird things to your body when you eat only one thing every day. Specifically the eggs, you likely went into ketosis because you did not have enough glycogen, and due to being in ketosis, you had no hunger response.

You should redo the test with oatmeal only, but make it 3 days oatmeal prepared the normal way, and 3 days of oatmeal baked into bars with little water.

9:40 PM  
Blogger cessu said...

It is very difficult to define a good satiety test, but that was not really my goal either. My goal was to test volymetrics, and at least in my case that hypothesis failed.

I concur that I most likely entered BDK on the second day of the eggs diet, and that probably reduced my hunger feelings. But once again this only supports my conclusion that there's more to hunger than weight or volume of the meal.

In some sense it would indeed be interesting to repeat the experiment with dried and compressed foods compared with equivalent wet food with air whipped into it. It could show if there's /any/ sense in volumetrics - the current experiment only showed that there are other more dominating factors than energy density that control hunger. But I'm not really looking forward to eating oatmeal again, and very fiber-rich foods without plenty of water could lead to worse constipation than I experienced on the oatmeal diet (see comments by painoarvokas).

11:20 PM  
Blogger HealthReviews said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical too, because oatmeal is the darling of the power-lifting community, if you look at the diet of an elite power lifter, they often eat obscene amounts of oatmeal, and their goals aren't to hold off hunger or lose weight, in fact they actually eat something like 6 meals a day at the bare minimum, and are often trying to gain weight.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue I have with your oatmeal test is that you used "instant" oatmeal which you "microwaved". After the manufacturer processes whole oats into "instant", much of their nutritional value is lost and their natural grain structure is altered. Then blasting what's left with microwaves for a few minutes beats it down even further so the once natural, complete oatmeal is processed into a useless pulp. No wonder you felt hungry - you ate lots of bulk with very little natural nutritional value.

Try again with whole, slow-cook oats and spend 10 minutes cooking them in a covered pot on the stove as you would long grain rice. I am certain you will achieve substantially different results.

10:47 PM  
Blogger cessu said...

I didn't use instant oatmeal - I don't think I've ever bought such. The version I used does take 10 minutes to cook on the stove, or three minutes on full power in the microwave plus some additional mixing and resting time.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I cam across this blog too... and I have to say... oatmeal kept me full from 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM... I drink a minimum of 8 glasses a day... I am actually doing the rice diet, which works... it works to a point where I do not want to eat, but I am modifying it so I can get what I need. Anyway, unfortunately, I don't think your experiment proves anything other than every person and body is different... and statistically speaking, your experiment is not valid without a valid sampling or population... regardless... you seem to fair well with protein... for me high fiber. Thanks

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm starting the oatmeal diet today. Mostly because I bought a huge 6 pound bag of Quaker Oatmeal at Costco and no one else in the household likes it. So I'm stuck eating it all by myself. :)

4:10 PM  
Blogger Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

When I lived in Finland (as an exchange student... I was in Helsinki for 6 months of that period) I recall breakfast frequently consisted of a hard bread, more of a large, brown cracker actually, with some butter spread on and a few thin slices of a deli meat, cucumber and a slice of cheese. Is that a "normal" Finnish breakfast? I really liked it and still eat something like it to this day (though I live in the U.S. now).

2:29 AM  

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