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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nutrition Professor Drops 27 Pounds on a Twinkie Diet

Megan Bedard


Mmmm, mmm, delicious? (Photo: Professor Haub's Facebook Page)

Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub has been making headlines lately for his two-month Twinkie stunt. For 60 days straight, Haub ate a snack cake for every meal, with Doritos, Oreos and sugar-soaked cereals for snacks between meals.

The crazy part? He lost 27 pounds, and his cholesterol dropped.

Those results are so dang counterintuitive, the questions flood to your head—like a sugar rush.

First of all, what was he thinking?

Believe it or not, the professor had a larger plan in mind. Haub had a hunch that when it comes to dieting, calorie counting is the single most important factor in weight loss. It wasn't what he ate, he thought; it was how many calories it amounted to. He committed to proving his theory as a living example to his students.

But he's a nutrition professor?

Yep. That's exactly what left him conflicted. Having proved his point after 60 days, Haub wasn't so sure he wanted to tout the Twinkie Diet. "I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do," he told CNN.

Commentors on his Facebook page have applauded and abhorred his actions.

"This is phenomenal, congratulations. Hopefully you will continue to update with your maintenance plan, because I felt on top of what you have done so far—but maintenance is another game altogether from my experience," one fan wrote.

"This 'experiment' boarders on CRIMINAL for a Professor of Nutrition to... be espousing this... Just think how many LAZY YO-YO's in this country will now think eating convenience store food will help them lose weight," complained a dissenter.

Why'd he lose weight, instead of gaining it?

In short, Haub's theory about caloric intake held up. He burned more calories than he ate, and that caused him to shed pounds. As for the other health improvements, like lowering his "bad" cholesterol and upping his "good" cholesterol? "When you lose weight, regardless of how you're doing it—even if it's with packaged foods, generally you will see these markers improve when weight loss has improved," explained Dawn Jackson Blatner, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Will he ever eat another Swiss Cake Roll again?

Yes, actually. Though he's planning to eat more healthfully and add 300 calories back into his daily diet, Haub hasn't sworn off snack cakes.

So overweight people should switch to Little Debbie diets?

Haub wouldn't recommend it. There are other health factors, he says, that we can't predict, such as the link between junk food and cancer. Plus, there's one other factor to consider: energy levels.

What's the lesson here?

Haub pointed out one real-life application to his experiment: tackling obesity rates in "food deserts," areas across America where people don't have access to grocery markets and rely on the food they can find in convenience stores.

"These foods are consumed by lots of people. It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal," he said. "I just think it's unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruit. It may be healthy, but not realistic."