Counting calories and eating healthy were always considered the secret of losing fat. But what if we forget about the second part? Mark Haub, professor of Human Nutrition at the Kansas State University thought he might give it a try. In a “convenience store diet” in 2010, he consumed nothing but junk food for 10 weeks to test a theory. His results will surprise you.
Professor Haub decided to prove that calorie counting, not the nutritional value of the food you eat, are the key to losing fat. For 10 weeks, he ate nothing but Twinkies, powdered donuts, and Nutty Bars, with some Doritos, Oreos, and sugary cereals added for variety. To compensate for the loss of other nutrients, professor Haub drank a daily protein shake and took multivitamin pills.
And he managed to prove a point: he lost 27 pounds (a tad over 12 kg) in just two months.
Quantity, not quality
For his experiment, professor Haub limited his daily calorie intake to 1,800. Considering his age and stature, his baseline caloric expenditure was about 2,600 calories. His diet was built based on a basic fat loss principle: consume significantly fewer calories than you burn. And his results were convincing: he went from a BMI of 28.8 (overweight) to 24.9 (normal), from a body fat percentage of 33.4% to 24.9%, and stopped at a weight of 174 pounds (approximately 79 kg).
The health effects of the “Twinkies diet”
The most surprising part of his experiment was revealed not by the mirror, but a blood test: it was beneficial to his cholesterol levels. During the 10 weeks on a “convenience store diet”, professor Haub’s LDL (bad) cholesterol levels dropped by 20%, and his HDL (good) cholesterol levels increased by 20%. At the same time, his triglyceride levels also dropped by almost 40%.
“That’s where the head scratching comes,” Haub told the press. “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?”
It’s all about portion size and moderation
Junk food is consumed by millions of people worldwide – and often as an extra source of calories on top of their daily diet. As his experiment has proven, junk food is not the direct cause of obesity. It’s more likely to be “an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal,” Haub told CNN. It’s unrealistic to expect people to totally eliminate junk food from their diet. But keeping their calorie intake at the right level can be much easier to bear with an occasional donut, bag of chips and sugary treats.