Long-Term Effects of Snack-centric Diets

By now we’ve all heard of Kansas State Professor Mark Haub’s junk food diet, aptly dubbed the “twinkie” diet by the ever-present media. The objective of the professor’s project was to prove traditional weight-loss methods wrong by eating junk food in moderation, rather than healthy fare. So for 10 weeks, the professor’s diet consisted of little more than Twinkies, Little Debbies, Oreos, sugary cereals, and small helpings of vegetables at dinner time to save face for his kids.

In the end, his body mass index went from 28.8 to 24.9, which is pretty drastic if you consider his “diet”, and his “bad” cholesterol, LDL, went down twenty percent. For some, this begs the question, what accounts for weight loss? Is it mainly calorie restriction? Could you theoretically just eat junk food all day, so long as it doesn’t exceed 1800-2000 calories?

Ideally, that would be nice. However, most dietitians will disagree. Registered dietitian Catherine Kruppa of Houston, a licensed dietitian who recently spoke live on Houston’s Fox affiliate network about the issue, says that while Kaubman’s cholesterol levels decreased, medical professionals might be looking at the wrong markers to determine what stimulates weight loss.

“Processed food in the long-term ultimately leads to poor health and a higher risk of disease. His cholesterol levels may have gone down, but other organs were suffering. For instance, his pancreas was working hard to produce a lot of insulin to control his blood sugar levels.”

Haub admitted that after the first thirty-six hours on the “diet”, his head felt as if it were in a vise, a sugar headache resulting from the dip his blood sugar levels took after eating sweets on an empty stomach.

Ultimately the test was so limited in scope that there’s no way to determine how Kaub’s diet will affect his overall health in the long-term. However, the general literature in the diet and nutrition field is pretty clear on what happens to the body over time. Most of the serious side effects are fairly obvious—diabetes, heart disease, digestive problems, increased cravings for sugar, systemic inflammation, and overall malnourishment. Also, since snacks like Twinkies and Little Debbies contain empty calories, they are likely to aggravate sugar cravings, making calorie restriction more difficult than ever.

One of the major drawbacks of a diet of this caliber is the rise in insulin levels caused by sugar, which suppresses the release of growth hormones and heavily debilitates the immune system. Not only will this increase the risk of disease, but ultimately a rise in insulin levels leads to increased fat storage, resulting in imminent weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels.

At the end of the day, the question comes down to deciding what’s more important, losing weight or being healthy?  Most people would like to answer both, but a large segment of the population is still searching for that quick weight loss fix and for some, Haub has provided one.

“The way you lose weight is ultimately how you’re going to maintain your weight loss,” Kruppa continues. “If you do it in a way that’s not sustainable, the weight loss won’t be sustained.”

So it’s true. You can lose weight by eating a Twinkie and a chocolate bar a day, but at what cost?


Monique Muro earned a bachelor's degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis from Cal State Long Beach. She currently assists with the PR and Social Media marketing for the revolutionary supplement AllDaySlim, and works as a freelance writer on the side. An avid reader and writer, her articles can be found at Suite101, eHow, Ezinearticles.com, Demand Studios, CNN iReport, and Examiner.com. She writes on a variety of topics including fitness, books, movies, and current events.

7 thoughts on “Long-Term Effects of Snack-centric Diets

  • December 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Being that we already seem to be sharing factors regarding Twinkie diet – Long-term Effects of Snack-centric Diets, It is of vital importance to understand the adverse effects that may be caused by following a 500 calorie diet without the proper supervision of a medical doctor. We hope that this article has changed your mind about starting or continuing the use of homeopathic “HCG” drops. Although hCG hormone programs may be more expensive, ask yourself, is this small expense worth preventing a lifetime of potential health and weight issues?

  • November 17, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Dr. Haub definitely validated his thesis that a daily caloric deficit is a path to weight loss. Statistically it’s a horrible path to weight loss, that much is certain, as upwards of 98% of conventional diets fail within a year (Dr. Haub’s diet is a conventional diet, irrelevant of his food choices – he was focused on expending more calories than he consumed).

    It should be noted that Dr. Haub has been successful for all of 10 weeks so far — even he questions the sustainability of this diet.

    WHATEVER FOODS YOU USE, Caloric deficit dieting is a huge cause of weight GAIN. It’s not sustainable and slows metabolism. Basically it puts you in a jail that to lose weight you will have to eat less and less and exercise more and more. That’s not healthy.

    Training your metabolism to handle more food is clearly a better way, and this can be accomplished by shifting the timing of your eating and exercise to better align with your natural metabolic cycle.

    The EET Fitness Plan has proven this over the last 3 years with members eating plenty of junk food as well as all other kinds of foods (EET has no calorie counting and no food restrictions).

    This is where I take issue with this article — all foods can be eaten if the correct timing is observed while still achieving weight loss and improved health readings. I personally have sustained this for nearly 3 years and other EETers are now over 1 year into their plans, so we are evidence that Dr. Haub’s blood readings are no fluke and can be sustained at least when using the EET Guidelines.

    EET believes and our results support the notion that their are not unhealthy or junk foods, only foods eaten at the wrong times.

    I had hoped Dr. Haub’s message would be to get people to question EVERYTHING about conventional dieting — we are calling a 98% failure rate state of the art?

    Instead, I fear the public is taking from Dr. Haub’s experiment that a conventional calorie counting dieting is the way to go, and if that’s the case it will cause more harm than good.

    EET Fitness

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  • November 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Hi Monique, excellent follow-up on the Twinkie diet aftermath! I think the publicity of this diet can lead people to the wrong conclusions if they don’t read carefully.

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