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Professor’s Twinkie diet a puzzling success

by nickj on November 10, 2010

A no-exercise, junk food diet doesn't sound like the best way to lose weight, but based on nutrition professor Mark Haub's recent experiment, it could deliver results. After 10 weeks of sweets and plenty of couch time, the expert experienced little to no adverse results.

The Kansas State University professor actually lost 27 pounds during his trial, reduced his body mass index from overweight to normal and saw a 20 percent increase in good cholesterol (and a 20 percent decrease in bad cholesterol), reports CNN.

During the two month class project, two-thirds of Haub's daily fuel came from Hostess and Little Debbie snack cakes, soda, chips, and other convenience store novelties. The actual dieting consisted of cutting his intake to 1,800 calories a day (as opposed to the 2,600 a man his size would need). Haub also took a daily multivitamin and drank protein shakes, as well as helped himself to one or two servings of vegetables in front of his kids.

Asked whether he would now advocate a diet that promotes quantity over quality of calories, Haub told the source that he wouldn't recommend it.

"I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it's healthy. I'm not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it's irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn't say that," he said.

Haub, 41, is not the first to find that cutting calories can be beneficial. A 2009 study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that a reduced-calorie diet is an effective means to lose weight, regardless of the proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Though the findings recommended "heart-healthy" calories, the 811 participants experienced similar results on four distinct diets, suggesting it's not always what but how much you eat that determines your success.

The implication of these findings seems to be that weight loss can be an end as well as a means. Like Haub, the study's participants improved their cholesterol levels and reduced their risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, told CNN that being overweight is the leading cause of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

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