FOOD

The Twinkie Diet?

I remember hearing about this diet a few years back.  But recently I overheard a conversation about a “diet” regarding eating mostly snack foods.  Yes, you heard me right, like eating a Suzy Q was ever a good idea?!  But these people were raving about the fact that these dieters were having great success with this diet, called none other than the Twinkie Diet.  I thought this diet died?

As it turns out this whole conversation initiated with this group because they were talking about a new sweet dish at a local restaurant.  I couldn’t believe it when I inquired (obviously, I was rudely eavesdropping) but some restaurants are now deep frying Twinkies as a dessert item.  Of course, they started with the deep fried Twinkie treat at the restaurant which progressed into the talk about the nearly decade old Twinkie Diet.

A deep fried Twinkie as a delicacy?

I honestly cannot remember the last time I ate a Twinkie, obviously as a child.  They were the bomb (no pun intended).  We ate snack cakes like crazy: Twinkies, Zingers, Ding Dong’s; I could go on, the list seems endless! Our trip to the Hostess store with dad was the highlight of our week (don’t blame dad, he was blissfully unaware).

In recent years, the trend is to healthy and organic food choices.  Less preservatives and more “buy local and fresh”.  Shop the “outer store, not the inner aisles”.  We see slogan’s encouraging us to remember that, “you are what you eat”.  I have also been on the healthy train, bringing in fresh food and leaving out preservative filled foods as much as possible.  I learned the lesson of the importance of eating healthy the hard way, but that is for another story.

We are slowly becoming a health conscious nation who are trying desperately to turn the tide of obesity in our country.  Make no mistake, obesity is an epidemic in our country.  According to statistics, there are nearly 650 million obese adults on the planet, as defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 30. There are also about 125 million obese children and adolescents in the entire world according to a BMI over 30.https://renewbariatrics.com/obesity-rank-by-countries/

New research suggests there are about 775 million obese people in the World including adult, children, and adolescents. 

The majority of the obesity on the planet resides in a few countries, in fact, the top 10 countries contribute half the entire world’s obesity.

Guess what country is #1? Yes, the Unites States of America.

That’s not a statistic to be proud of.

So I decided to do a little research on Twinkies and the Twinkie Diet.  I remember vaguely hearing about the Twinkie diet but I didn’t know much regarding the facts.  Maybe I had villianized the Twinkie without cause?  I mean if restaurants are bringing it back, maybe I should too?

First, what are Twinkies (in case you live under a rock)?  They are a snack cake from Hostess marketed as a “golden sponge cake with creamy filling”.  A single Twinkie snack cake has over 37 ingredients including (loads of) sugar (under at least three different names), partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat), and an array of artificial flavorings and colorings.  Mostly, you cannot pronounce most of the ingredient list.  Also, I have ADD (self diagnosed) and when you get past 10 ingredients, I stop reading (just like directions).  Essentially, it is difficult when you look at each ingredient in a Twinkie to find any that are good for you.

So where did this diet phenomenon come from?

The Twinkie Diet originated from an overweight nutrition professor at Kansas State University who put himself on a predominantly snack food diet, with Twinkies prominent, for two months. He lost 27 lbs, and lowered his body mass index (BMI) from nearly 29, to just under 25 — from almost obese to normal.  To make the assault on conventional nutrition wisdom even worse were the effects of the diet on the professor’s metabolic profile. His LDL cholesterol and triglycerides went down, while protective HDL cholesterol went up.  What?  So it works?

At face value, seemingly it works but let’s digest the facts further.  The Twinkie diet, if you can call it a “diet” was still a conventional diet in the sense that it was calorie-restricted. The professor reduced his calorie intake from a maintenance level of roughly 2,600 calories per day to less than 1,800 calories for 10 weeks.  Ah, the catch for the weight loss!  But then why the improved other values?

I don’t want to get very detailed because the biological specifics can be overwhelming.  It is enough to sum it up as this:  When you reduce your caloric intake, you will lose weight, even eating Twinkies.  When you are obese that excess of body fat is associated with increased inflammatory responses, and often, increased levels of insulin. Both inflammation and hormonal imbalances in turn affect cholesterol and other blood lipids. When body fat is lost, these effects are reversed — and improvements in blood lipids are likely.

The mistake is to think this means better health.

An article in Huffpost by Dr David Katz highlights the problems with this diet.  But this quote sums it up nicely: “The two-month timeline here is important for another reason. Over the long term, controlling calories means either going hungry, or finding a way to feel full and satisfied on fewer calories. Here’s where the quality of calories certainly does matter. Foods of high nutritional quality include, among their many virtues, the capacity to produce fullness on fewer calories. Eating until full and yet being lean is having your cake and eating it too — but snack cakes will never get you there!”
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/chewing-on-the-twinkie-di_b_782678.html

So you decide.  The Twinkies, villian or victim?

I’m still with villian.

The deliciously soft and sweet snack is not a good sense food choice, and definitely not a predominant diet choice.  Even though I’m sure it is a delicious deep fried treat, I would still not order it.  After all, how long can a Twinkie sit on a shelf without decaying?  45 years?  In truth, it is actually 45 days but imagine that.  A Twinkie can sit on your counter for 1.5 MONTHS and still be okay to eat?  That is not okay.

So, Twinkie Diet hopefuls the verdict is clear, this diet has some serious flaws.

And for you Deep Fried Twinkie Dessert fans, you can keep your delicacy.  I will pass and order the cheesecake instead, that has to be good for you, it is made of cheese, right?

I will leave you to chew on the facts.

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