The Truth about the Twinkie Diet

The Truth about the Twinkie Diet

Nutritionist Mark Haub, a professor at Kansas State University, embarked on a 10 week investigation of what would happen if he added Twinkies to his diet. The result has been a stunning amount of media buzz. The so-called Twinkie Diet attracted attention from CNN to The Dr. Oz Show to The Wall Street Journal.

The only place the Twinkie Diet wasn’t making a splash? Peer reviewed medical journals.

Why? While Mr. Haub certainly lost weight there are several problems with his experiment design.

Misreported by Media

In reality, Haub did not, in fact, subsist solely on Twinkies and Ho-Ho cakes. The idea his diet was an uninhibited sugar binge was a perception generated by sensationalized media headlines. In reality, Haub incorporated junk food cakes into his day-to-day diet and limited calories.

According to Tom Naughton, who writes extensively on nutrition and starred in the documentary Fat Head, Haub actually managed to consume fewer carbohydrates than the average American male. Naughton estimates most American men consume more than 300g of total carbohydrates daily and infers that anything below that threshold will result in some weight loss. Whether weight loss would continue past a certain point, Naughton is doubtful.

Long Term Effects of Twinkies Not Considered

Haub only followed his Twinkie Diet for ten weeks, which is nothing compared to the years of over consumption Americans indulge in that result in serious health issues like diabetes. Consider that the average added sugar intake in the United States, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, is 88g, but the recommended intake by the American Heart Association (AHA) is just 24g per day.

The AHA made their recommendation in an effort to head off the long term impact of excess dietary sugar which is often found in soda, candy and mass produced pastries like the Twinkie. All items present in Haubs’ diet.

Per the AHA, there is strong evidence that high levels of added sugar in the diet are major factors in the development of diabetes and heart disease. Haub’s junk food consumption routinely violated the standards set forth by the AHA. In the short term, he may have lost weight, but, long term, he increased his risk of diabetes and heart disease. Short term gain at the expense of long term health means Haub’s brand of weight loss may come at a high price.

Carbs vs. Calories

Haub’s primary goal with the Twinkie diet was to substantiate the idea that all weight loss is comprised of ‘calories in calories out.’ However, his diet, as Naughton calculated, comes in as a much lower carb diet than that of the average American. The conditions of his experiment did not successfully mimic real life. Not only did he reduce his calories, but he also changed the composition of his diet, which muddies his results.

Why Haub thought ten weeks of Twinkies could supercede the much larger ongoing experiment in junk food consumption being conducted in the United States for the last several decades is unclear. Limited results in a limited amount of time can’t compete with the long term data science already has on the effects of excess sugar.

One Person Is Not a Study

Beyond these flaws, Haub’s experiment produced results based on the experience of one person with no reported health issues beyond a few extra pounds. If Twinkies were a pill, the FDA would not find Haub’s results reliable enough to allow them to be prescribed as a weight loss drug. Something to keep in mind the next time you’re in the Twinkie aisle at the grocery store.

While some people may be able to lose some weight and get away with increased sugar consumption for a few weeks, in the long run, they are hurting their health.Anyone wanting to avoid diabetes and heart disease, should also avoid the Twinkie Diet. As if those facts weren’t convincing enough, anyone still on the fence should keep in mind Haub himself doesn’t recommend the Twinkie Diet.

Categories: Diet, Nutrition, Weight Loss