Imagine a diet of Twinkies, Doritos chips, and other foods high in sugar and saturated fats, and losing lots of weight on it. That is exactly what Mark Haub, a professor in human nutrition from Kansas State University did – and he lost 27 pounds in ten weeks. On top of that, his blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels improved considerably.

Three weeks into his diet Haub had already lost ten pounds and was surprised to find that his bad cholesterol levels had fallen while his good cholesterol levels had gone up.

Commenting on his cholesterol change, Haub said:

The healthy aspect of diets depends on perception.. If cholesterol is a valid marker of cardiovascular disease risk, then it would appear my risk for cardiovascular disease decreased.

Haub wanted to find out whether what really mattered in body weight control was simple math – energy-in versus energy-out, consumption versus expenditure. Most people, including experts would tell you that Orios, Doritos, Twinkies, doughnuts and peanut butter chocolates – foods that Haub consumed during his diet – are unhealthy and make you put on weight. Haub says he believes it is all a matter of consuming fewer calories than you burn – regardless of where those calories come from. That is the key to weight loss, he says.

Haub explains that his diet demonstrates that “there is no definition of healthy weight loss”.

Commenting on consuming less energy that you expend, Haub said:

It doesn’t matter where the macronutrients are derived from as long as essential nutrients are consumed at the recommended levels, and the fuel is consumed at a level at or below energy expenditure.

Initially, Haub had planned just to do a four week diet. Into his third week he decided to extend it a bit longer, until it eventually lasted 10 weeks.

Into week 3, Haub said:

I’ve gotten a few comments that four weeks is not long enough to really establish worth. I may, however, keep to the diet during the day and just eat a sensible dinner at night with my family. (He didn’t do that – he stuck to his diet for the whole ten-week period)

Haub made sure he consumed no more than 1,800 calories per day. His daily calorie requirement is about 2,600 – so he was running an 800 calorie deficit each day. He avidly followed these numbers through the whole ten week period.

At the end of his diet, Haub’s BMI (body mass index) was 24.9, down from 28.8. He is happy with his present 174 body weight. His total body fat went down from 33.4% to 24.9%.

Not only did his cholesterol levels change for the better. Triglyceride (type of fat) levels dropped 39%. High triglyceride is linked to a higher risk of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Haub says we must ask ourselves what all this means. Is he healthier now? Or does it mean that when we define health from a biology standpoint that we are missing something?

Asked whether he would recommend that diet to other people, he said he could not:

I’m not geared to say this is a good thing to do. 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.

His diet consisted of junk foods, a protein shake, multivitamin pills, a can of green beans or four stalks of celery each day. Over 60% of his calorie consumption came from the junk foods.

Haub explains that a significantly large number of people eat junk foods. Perhaps we should be thinking more about portion size, rather than total abstinence. He believes that telling people to swap Orios and Twinkies for fruit and vegetables is unrealistic and naïve. “It may be healthy advice, but not realistic”.

Mark D. Haub is Associate Professor at the Department of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University. He has a B.A. in Psychology from Fort Hays State University (1992), an M.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Kansas (1996), a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kansas (1998), and a Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Geriatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (2000).

Written by Christian Nordqvist