If you're a dessert lover like me, you may have celebrated at the news that Mark Haub, a Kansas State University nutrition professor, lost 27 pounds and lowered his cholesterol levels by eating a 10-week diet of mostly Twinkies and Doritos and adding no extra exercise.

But before you go on a Twinkie binge, health and wellness expert Ron Ringlien says to look at Haub's diet a bit more closely.

In a recent health/wellness awareness tip from his website (corporatewellnesscoach.biz), Ringlien notes that Haub kept his daily calorie intake to 1,800 or less - enough to trigger loss from his prediet weight of 201 pounds and average 2,700 calorie-a-day intake. "When it comes to nutrition, nutrition math rules," Ringlien writes. "If you want to lose weight, you must incur a caloric deficit ... In the short run, it does not matter what food contributed the calories as long as there is a caloric deficit."

So, we can eat all the Twinkies we want so long as we burn off more calories than we ate? Not quite, according to Ringlien.

Although acknowledging that weight loss largely amounts to calories in < calories out, "the nutritional quality of your diet, particularly in combination with strength training, can affect what kind of weight is lost - fat or muscle," writes Ringlien.

"Nutritional quality is extremely important for health, energy, longevity, vitality and mental acuity. The long-term consumption of artificial, processed food will eventually lead to health problems of one type or another. With sugary junk foods, we are particularly concerned given today's epidemic of diabetes and metabolic syndrome."

In other words, when crafting wellness information (and of course, in your own daily living as well) Ringlien's message is to make sure your employees follow Haub's math, not his menu.

Revamping restaurant menus

Keeping track of calories will be much easier since restaurant menus will start looking a bit different soon, thanks to a small provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires establishments with 20 or more locations nationwide to post calories "in a clear and conspicuous manner," as well as provide "a succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake," most likely the 2,000 calories-a-day recommendation used by the Food and Drug Administration on food packaging.

However, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, whether the labeling requirement will help beat the battle of the bulge is up for debate. "Preliminary studies found menu labeling to lead to slight reductions in the number of calories people purchase, particularly when such labeling is accompanied by a statement referring to a recommended intake of 2,000 calories per day," an April 2010 NEJM article reads. "Other studies, however, found no effect or indicated that such posting might actually encourage young men, in particular, to eat more."

The article goes on to suggest that, "encouraging chains to reformulate their products or reduce portion sizes might be one potential benefit of labeling requirements," citing a 2007 comparison of nutrition brochures, but again acknowledges that results were mixed.

"McDonald's, for example, decreased the calories in large orders of french fries by 30 but increased those in small orders by 20," the article reads. "Starbucks has decreased the calories in many of its drinks, but some Subway sandwiches have more calories now." The article cites a study conducted by the New York City Health Department that shows restaurants reduced their per-item calorie counts by about 10%. The city implemented a similar nutritional labeling requirement in 2006.

What do you think of the Twinkie Diet and Haub's overall findings? I think it could present a fun way to create effective wellness messaging for employees about the importance of moderation and healthy choices. Share your thoughts about Haub's experiment and how it could factor into your wellness strategies.

This story first appeared on EBN's blog, the Daily Diversion. Visit ebn.benefitnews.com/blog/daily_diversion to post comments on this and other recent entries.

A day on the 'Twinkie Diet'

Below is a sample of what Mark Haub ate in one day during the two months he spent on the so-called 'Twinkie Diet.'Espresso, Double: 6 calories; 0 grams of fat

Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat

Centrum Advanced Formula From A To Zinc: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat

Little Debbie Star Crunch: 150 calories; 6 grams of fat

Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat

Diet Mountain Dew: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat

Doritos Cool Ranch: 75 calories; 4 grams of fat

Kellogg's Corn Pops: 220 calories; 0 grams of fat

Whole milk: 150 calories; 8 grams of fat

Baby carrots: 18 calories; 0 grams of fat

Duncan Hines Family Style Brownie Chewy Fudge: 270 calories; 14 grams of fat

Little Debbie Zebra Cake: 160 calories; 8 grams of fat

Muscle Milk Protein Shake: 240 calories; 9 grams of fat

Total: 1,589 calories and 59 grams of fat

Source: cnn.com

Follow EBN on: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Podcasts

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access