A Healthy Slice of Orange — The Twinkie Trick Tipped the Scale

By: Valentina Palladino

I’ve got a huge sweet tooth. Unlike my friends who snack late at night on chips and fries, I prefer cookies, chocolate and other sweet treats. Twinkies, however, have never been my go-to snack. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever finished one. However, some college students do snack on Twinkies and other Hostess snacks all the time, gaining no nutritional value and a ton of empty calories.

So how was it possible for a nutrition professor from Kansas State University to lose weight on a diet of Twinkies?

If you raised your eyebrows at that last statement, you’re not alone. I was skeptical too when I heard of the experiment that professor Mark Haub conducted using himself as a snack-food guinea pig to test a “convenience store diet,” better known now as “The Twinkie Diet.” For ten weeks, Haub ate only Little Debbie snack cakes, Twinkies, Doritos, and Oreos. He lost 27 pounds in two months.

Haub’s premise is simple – losing weight is all about calorie control, not the composition of those calories. Haub, a normal-sized male, limited himself to 1,800 calories each day – much less than what a regular man should consume (2,600 calories per day for a man his type, according to CNN.com). Accordingly, Haub shed pounds. Furthermore, he lowered his “bad,” LDL cholesterol by 20 percent and raised his “good,” HDL cholesterol by 20 percent, according to CNN.com.

Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor from New York University, told The Chicago Tribune’s health blog, Julie’s Health Club, that she was not impressed with the results. “If his experiment proved anything at all, it’s that calories count,” she said. “If he wants to do that with junk food that’s fine, but let’s see how long it takes for him to gain it all back.”

Many college students eat so much junk food that their diets can sometimes resemble Haub’s experiment. Eating a steady diet of Twinkies and other snacks of the like, although unhealthy, will still allow you to loose weight because the basic science of weight loss still stands that consuming fewer calories than you burn will allow you to lose weight. Any way to loose weight is beneficial to one’s health because many health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, result from being overweight. Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, explained to CNN that “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.”

Stephanie Ricciardi, a sophomore at Syracuse University, would never consider the Twinkie diet. “I hate Twinkies. I’d rather snack on candy,” she said. “But I guess he proved that you can eat what you want and still lose weight, if you’re willing to seriously cut back on calories.”

The bottom line is that although weight loss can lead to a healthier body, every body needs sufficient nutrition to maintain healthy functions — something that can’t come from cakes. There is no way for scientists to measure the long-term effects the Twinkie Diet could have on the body because it has not been tested long enough. Since Twinkies and similar snacks lack essential, healthy nutrients – such as vitamins, protein, and fiber – chances are that a steady diet of these foods over a long period of time would produce health problem.

Personally, I need something more substantial than a processed, yellow, cake tube filled with imitation cream to satisfy me. Even if I was trying to lose weight, I wouldn’t go crazy only eating snack cakes. Let’s face it: snack cakes don’t make a meal.

If you’re not convinced, check out Dwight Eschliman’s photography collection called “37 or So Ingredients.” The photographer took pictures of all the ingredients that make a Twinkie. Prepare to be amazed… or grossed out… or a little of both.

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