The Nutty (Bar) professor

What we can learn from an academic who lost more than 20 pounds on his self-crafted Twinkie diet


Nearly a year ago, Mark Haub embarked on an experiment that had him eating Doritos, Twinkies, Ho Hos and Nutty Bars instead of meals, which resulted in an initial 27-pound weight loss. Which might not be a big deal, if he wasn't a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University for the past 11 years.

At the time he began the project last year, the United States Department of Agriculture was working on new dietary guidelines (which were eventually published in January 2011), one of which impels Americans to "cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt." For 10 weeks from August to November last year, he focused on a reduced-calorie diet of 1,800 calories that went against that pending USDA recommendation. After the 10 weeks, Haub was 27 pounds lighter.

"The purpose was to eat those foods that they say to avoid because of obesity—sugar-loaded treats and these fat-loaded treats will increase blood glucose, increase cholesterol, worsen blood lipids, make people fatter, etc.—to see if those foods could be used to do just the opposite," Haub says. "And lo and behold, they did."

Law enforcement has some additional challenges from the everyday American in that duty can sometimes dictate one's eating lifestyle. There can be public safety concerns if that cop has been on the job doing something for 5 or 6 hours and hasn't eaten for 8. "There may be some blood glucose issues, strength issues that may jeopardize his safety or the safety of the public if he doesn't eat something, even if it's a donut," Haub says. "I'd much rather have a policeman looking out for me that has some calories in them—I don't care where [the calories are] from—than if they haven't eaten and are potentially starving and they have to fight. That's not a good scenario."

But Haub's also clear: he's not lobbying for a Twinkie diet craze. He's not the anti-USDA. Taking that message away is actually the antithesis of the message he's trying to bring. Consumers—cops and citizens alike—need to be smart about their fueling choices. "Specific foods don't cause obesity, the calories—the energy—that people take in are what seems to be more important. So people were saying 'Avoid these foods because they cause obesity and they cause these bad things.' I ate almost exclusively those foods and that didn't happen." Instead his lesson is less nutty and more professorial: one must be informed on the foods we're eating and make educated choices. A Twinkie isn't going to send your belt up a notch; 10 will. Haub is not advising you to hit the Nutty Bars, but be a smart consumer.

Click on the images at left to read more on Haub's diet experience.

(Editor's note: If you click on the photo, an enlarged version will pop up and enable you to read the entire caption.)
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