Earlier this month, the media feasted on the following news bit:
“Mark Haub, 40, associate professor in Kansas State University”s Department of Human Nutrition, began a 30-day junk food marathon on Aug. 25. He is living on a diet of high-calorie, high-fat foods, such as snack cakes, powdered doughnuts and sticky buns, to show that foods commonly regarded as junk can actually help people lose weight.”
As soon as I found out about this, I made a vow to not tweet, Facebook, or blog about it. In my eyes, this is basically the academia version of Heidi Montag undergoing ten plastic surgeries in one day — nothing more than desperate famewhoring that contributes nothing to society.
Alas, the day this news was published I received almost a dozen e-mails from Small Bites readers asking what I thought (all of which I replied to). My guess is that this professor’s project is still making the rounds on various news websites, since over the past ten days I have received 14 more e-mails asking for my opinion.
I decided, then, to break my vow and share my opinion with all of you.
Before I do that, though, let me give you a few more bits of info. Here is what Mr. Haub told AOL News about his diet:
“Is it truly weight we should be concerned with or should it be what we eat? If we lose weight, this diet should be viewed as healthy.”
Why does it have to be one or the other? I’m surprised a nutrition professor doesn’t understand a fundamental basic principle: nutrition is about nourishment and health. Health includes, among other things, maintaining a healthy weight. That is not to say, however, that nutrition only encompasses weight management.
In the first three weeks of this diet, Mr. Haub “lost 13 pounds, his bad cholesterol levels dropped and his HDL, or good cholesterol, improved,” as reported by Canada’s CTV news.
As much as the media attempted to turn this career mid-life crisis into “food for thought” regarding dieting, the most this middle school science fair project elicits from me is a groan, an eyeroll, and a feeble shrug.
No one in the nutrition field denies that caloric reductions result in weight loss (well, the fringe “calories don’t mean a thing” camp will claim you can add 2,000 calories of heavy whipping cream to your day and still lose weight since those calories are carb-free, but let’ not go there right now).
As I’ve stated before, you can very well eat nothing but pepperoni pizza and ice cream and lose weight, provided you are only consuming a certain amount of calories. Of course, since those foods are rather high in calories, you would reach your daily caloric limits by eating very small amounts of each.
The fact that this professor considers this some sort of groundbreaking experiment that will make people rethink food and weight loss tells me he is rather out of touch. Every dietitian is aware that a client could lose weight by consuming a lower-calorie meal plan that consists of junk. That, however, is known as being a lousy professional.
Mr. haub’s LDL cholesterol dropped and his HDL improved? Well of course — he lost weight! Remember: weight loss intrinsically improves blood lipid levels. Had he lost weight in healthier ways (ie: a diet high in soluble fiber, focused on consuming mainly monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids), those blood lipids would have been even better.
Notice, though, that his triglyceride numbers have not been reported. I suspect that a diet so high in refined grains and added sugars has not proven helpful in that department.
I guess the only thing this professor has shown us is that, apparently, one surefire way to get your name in the papers is to create a senseless fad diet.
Of course, he then tries to save face by saying:
“I don’t recommend it, I don’t promote it, but it’s an examination into (the fact) there is more than one way to achieve the path to weight loss, and this is one.”
Yes. One could also achieve the path to financial wealth by robbing a bank, but I don’t think Suze Orman is about to recommend that any time soon.