Twinkie closeup

Over the years, just about every type of diet you can imagine has been cooked up (pun intended).  Some of you may remember when the grapefruit diet was all the rage.   The low carb, hi fat Atkins diet had both its fierce defenders and its adamant opponents.  I actually lost about 15 pounds on that one once.  There’s the Drinking Man’s Diet and the “gas-powered” Cabbage Soup Diet, and Russian Air Force Diet (think coffee and saltines for breakfast).  Fad Diets even have their own website named, of course, FadDiet.com.

According to CNN Health, we will probably have to add a new fad diet to the list:  The Twinkie Diet!  This one was invented by a nutrition professor, no less.  According to the CNN story, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University wanted to test the theory that it is not what, but how much, you eat that matters when it comes to weight loss.

For two months, the good Professor ate – pardon my language – crap[i]!   Core to the diet were Twinkies (indefensible), Nutty bars (whatever they are) and powdered donuts (when was the last time you ate one of these calorie bombs?).  For variety, he also ate Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Dorito chips, sugary cereals, and, all of our favorite – Oreos.  To balance things out, Haub drank a protein shake every day and he took a multivitamin.  He also ate some veggies (canned green beans and celery stalks).

If you are liking this diet a lot (except for the canned green beans), sorry, there is a catch.  Haub ate 30% fewer calories than a person his size would ordinarily consume (1800 vs 2600 calories).  And it worked.   He lost 27 pounds.

What is really interesting about this personal experiment is that Haub’s LDL (the bad one) decreased by 20% and his HDL (the good one) increased by 20%.  He also reduced his triglycerides by almost 40%.  You are probably thinking, “how can that be?”  Aren’t I supposed to eat low fat to have low lipids?  Well, it turns out that for many of us, the problem isn’t what we are eating, it is how much we are eating.  If your body accumulates fat around your viscera (aka, “guts”), you likely will become insulin resistant and develop a bad lipid profile.  As you lose weight, your lipids improve.

A recent study in the European Journal of Endocrinology (11/2010) confirmed that it doesn’t matter if you lose weight by being really really good (aka diet & exercise) or whether you cheat and go with a mechanical solution (bariatric surgery).  Lose weight and your lipids improve—in fact, in this study, they improved more after surgery than they did with intensive lifestyle interventions.

Now, I am not advocating we abandon healthy eating (you know, lots of fruits and veggies, not a lot of junk, and easy on the meat), I am just saying most of us genetic apples can’t eat our way to a healthy lipid profile in the absence obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight.  It is a kind of “good news-bad news” story.


[i] I queried Google to learn if people consider crap a bad word? Here is the response from Answer.com:

“Well, crap is a little bad to say but it’s really not that bad of a word. Usually, religious people would find this word bad but it really isn’t. Crap is just a word you can use instead of saying the s word.”