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Aug
21

The Twinkie Diet

As I read the headline “Twinkie Diet Helps Nutrition Professor Lose 27 pounds,” I snorted with disbelief.   Then the little devil sitting on my shoulder made me think “Hmmm…now here’s a diet that sounds like a lot of fun!”   But, seriously, junk food?  I have been researching healthy weight loss for so long that my mind is reeling with questions!  How on earth can anyone lose weight on junk food?   What about vegetables, whole grains and low-carb diets?   How can this possibly be healthy?   What happened to his cholesterol?  How did he structure this experiment?

 

Mark Haub, a professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, (a school where I have the distinction of being a graduate school drop-out) decided to test a premise that counting calories is more important than the nutritional value of the food.   Strangely, although this premise seems contrary to everything we know about diet and weight loss, his premise appears to have been correct–at least for his metabolism.

 

For 10 weeks, while on what Dr. Haub dubbed “The Convenience Store Diet” he ate foods like Twinkies, Little Debbie Cakes and Doritos along with a few fruits and vegetables in order to get proper vitamins.  In general, a man of Dr. Haub’s pre-dieting size consumes about 2600 calories a day.  He limited himself to 1600 calories with 2/3 of those calories coming from junk food.   He ate a small amount every three hours but the amount of calories was considerably less than what he normally ate which is a basic premise of weight loss, but usually other factors such as fat, carbohydrates and nutritional value are watched as well.


But that basic premise held true.   By consuming considerably fewer calories, what he ate was not nearly as important as how much.   He lost 27 pounds and his BMI (see our BMI calculator to find out your own Body Mass Index) went from 28.8 which is in the higher end of the “overweight” category  (over 30 is considered “obese”) to 24.9 which is considered “normal.”

One of my first thoughts had been to wonder how badly his cholesterol levels suffered.  Strangely, no.   His total cholesterol level dropped from 214 (over 200 raises your risk of heart disease) down to 184.   His bad cholesterol level (LDL) dropped from 153 to 123 which is still higher than the prescribed 100 or less and his good cholesterol  (HDL) level was raised from 37 to 46.   Over 40 is better for a decreased risk of heart disease.

 

Then I wondered about his blood sugar…   Doesn’t this kind of food cause diabetes?   Again, the results are puzzling.   Haub’s glucose level dropped from 94 to 75.    Normal blood sugar levels are considered between 70 and 120.   Over 120 is an elevated level which is typical of diabetes.

 

Since ending the diet last year, his weight is only up two pounds and his cholesterol is slightly higher.
My next question was “What the heck did he eat on a daily basis?”   According to CNN, a typical day included:
  • Espresso, Double: 6 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat
  • Centrum Advanced Formula From A To Zinc: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Little Debbie Star Crunch: 150 calories; 6 grams of fat
  • Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat
  • Diet Mountain Dew: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Doritos Cool Ranch: 75 calories; 4 grams of fat
  • Kellogg’s Corn Pops: 220 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • whole milk: 150 calories; 8 grams of fat
  • baby carrots: 18 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Duncan Hines Family Style Brownie Chewy Fudge: 270 calories; 14 grams of fat
  • Little Debbie Zebra Cake: 160 calories; 8 grams of fat
  • Muscle Milk Protein Shake: 240 calories; 9 grams of fat
  • Totals: 1,589 calories and 59 grams of fat

 

Now, here’s where this gets a little more tricky.  Haub had graduate students carefully measuring out portion sizes for him.  You’ll note that his serving of Doritos was only 75 calories.    A single serving (small) bag of Doritos has 140 calories.   Haub’s portion size would only have been 1/2 ounce or about 8 chips.   You’ll also note that he took a Centrum to be sure to get necessary vitamins, ate baby carrots for the same reason and probably for some fiber and also added a protein shake to the mix.    Thus, the advantage of being a nutritionist…he knew how to do this where those of us out here in diet land really do not.

 

“I’m not geared to say this is a good thing to do,” he told CNN. “I’m stuck in the middle. I guess that’s the frustrating part. I can’t give a concrete answer. There’s not enough information to do that.”    Haub also told CNN “There seems to be a disconnect between eating healthy and being healthy.  It may not be the same. I was eating healthier, but I wasn’t healthy. I was eating too much.”

 

I don’t know if this is good or bad either.   All I can say is that this kind of diet sounds like a lot more fun!

1 comment

  1. iphone 5 says:

    Great read, I just passed this onto a colleague who had been doing a little explore on that. And also he really bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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