One professor is proving that you can lose weight by eating junk food.
Nutrition expert Mark Haub decided to experiment on himself by spending ten weeks eating a diet dominated by sweets and chips. At every meal, he ate a twinkie, sometimes mixing it up with Little Debbie snacks, Oreos, Doritos and sugary cereals. The premise behind his "convenience store diet" was that for pure weight loss, calories mattered most--not nutritional value.
Haub lost 26 pounds in two months.
His calorie consumption under his junk food diet came out to roughly 1,800 calories a day, down from a norm of 2,600 calories. His body mass index decreased from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9. His "bad" cholesterol levels went down, while his "good" cholesterol levels improved. His triglyceride level lowered by 39 percent.
Haub didn't completely obliterate healthy foods from his diet during those ten weeks--he ate vegetables in front of his children at dinner so not to set a bad example, and took a multivitamin every day.
Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietic Association, said that Haub's experiment was a reminder that calorie reduction is crucial for weight loss. She said that she wasn't surprised that his health improved despite his diet, because being overweight was a big factor in issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
"When you lose weight, regardless of how you're doing it...generally you will see these markers improve when the weight loss has improved," Blatner said. She went on to warn against making the diet a lifestyle, versus a two month experiment, saying that a lack of fruits and vegetables could affect long-term health.
"These foods are consumed by lots of people," Haub said, bringing up the issue of food deserts, where families have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, even in their grocery stores. "I just think it's totally unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits.
"It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal," Haub said.
Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, began the diet in late August as a classroom experiment, then continued it past the original month time-frame when he saw his weight dropping. He maintained his same level of physical activity while on the diet.
Despite the results, Haub can't give the diet a seal of approval as a recipe for health.
"I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do," Haub 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."