Pass the Doritos. And the Cheetos!
Over the summer Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub decided it was time to drop some weight. Considering his profession and expertise, you'd think he would do it by ditching crummy foods and loading up on healthy stuff like fruits and vegetables. But Haub had other ideas.
He had a theory that simply cutting back on calories would be the key to weight loss, not the nutritional value of what he was eating. So for 10 weeks, Haub consisted on mostly Twinkies, Doritos, Oreo cookies, Diet Mountain Dew and other treats. He did mix in some carrots, green beans, celery and a protein shake as well. He limited himself to 1800 calories a day.
Guess what? It worked. Haub lost 27 pounds. His body mass index went from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9, which is normal. He now weighs 174 pounds.
But what about other health indicators like cholesterol? Certainly those levels were adversely affected, right?
Haub's "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent and his "good" cholesterol, or HDL, increased by 20 percent. He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent.
The results confused even Haub. "That's where the head scratching comes," Haub said. "What does that mean? Does that mean I'm healthier? Or does it mean how we define health from a biology standpoint, that we're missing something?"
"I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do," he said. "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."
Haub did say, however, that it is unreasonable to assume that people will just stop eating foods that are supposed to be bad for them.
"These foods are consumed by lots of people," he said. "It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it's unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic."
Dawn Jackson Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said she's not surprised Haub's health markers improved on this diet.
"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," she said.
But Blatner still doesn't think Haub's diet is a good idea.
"There are things we can't measure," said Blatner, questioning how the lack of fruits and vegetables could affect long-term health. "How much does that affect the risk for cancer? We can't measure how diet changes affect our health."