Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's Not What You Eat but How You Eat It

Enriching the flour is the secret to healthy, diet-friendly Twinkies

 Kids, throw away your copy of Good Calories Bad Calories. In case you haven't seen this yet, a "professor of human nutrition" lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks on a diet of Twinkies and other horrors.
Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables and occasional treats like pizza.
Hmmm, there seems to be something missing from that "healthy" diet. I'm sure a "professor of human nutrition" wouldn't have any sort of vegetarian agenda, that's probably just paranoia caused by all that protein and saturated fat I consume clogging up my synapses. And why was a "professor of human nutrition" who tried to eat such a "healthy" diet of grains, fruit and veggies fat to begin with? Apparently the culprit was the occasional pizza.
To curb calories, he avoided meat, whole grains and fruits. Once he started adding meat into the diet four weeks ago, his cholesterol level increased.
Twinkies are healthier than meat! Hallelujah! That vegetarian agenda stuff was just a figment of my SFA-addled mind.

Cholesterol is simply a messenger for bad health, not the cause. I'm not surprised it increased after eating crap for 10 weeks. I believe it was Dr Mike Eades who came up with the fire engine analogy:  a little kid notices fire trucks at every house that is on fire, his conclusion, fire trucks cause fires! Cholesterol is a lipoprotein used by the body repair damage caused by eating crap, it is not what causes the damage in the first place.

The point of this professor's experiment was to show that losing weight really is just about the number of calories, as the media and "experts in human nutrition" have been saying for years and years. Turns out it was a resounding success.
His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.
That's pretty sciencey. He started with a hypothesis (or premise if you prefer extremely technical jargon) then confirmed that hypothesis by experimenting on himself. Weight loss really does just boil down to calories. Turns out he was able to prove to himself (and CNN) with his n=1 experiment that what "experts" like himself  have been saying for years has been true all along.

And how much was he craving on this crap diet? Actually he wasn't just eating crap, just mostly eating craps.
Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.
Families who live in food deserts have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating.
So he was eating 600 calories a day of veggies and a protein shake. The rest in Twinkies or equivalent.

A Twinkie has 150 calories, so to get 1200 calories a day you'd need to eat 8 of them. But how can we even believe a word this guy says? It's well-known that Twinkies cause insanity.
For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals.
Wait a sec, it would take 24 hours to ingest 1200 calories of Twinkies by eating one every three hours. Was he up all night eating Twinkies?  Did he set the alarm to wake up every three hours? I am shocked, SHOCKED that this hard-hitting CNN reporter didn't catch the apparent mathematical discrepancy.

And don't even get me started on food deserts.  Caitlin Flanagan sums it up much better than I could in this excellent article in The Atlantic (long quote).
As it happens, I live fewer than 20 miles from the most famous American hood, Compton, and on a recent Wednesday morning I drove over there to do a little grocery shopping. The Ralphs was vast, well-lit, bountifully stocked, and possessed of a huge and well-tended produce section. Using my Ralphs card, I bought four ears of corn for a dollar, green grapes and nectarines (both grown in the state, both 49 cents a pound), a pound of fresh tortillas for $1.69, and a half gallon of low-fat milk for $2.19. The staff, California friendly, outnumbered the customers, and the place had the dreamy, lost-in-time feeling that empty American supermarkets often have.

But across Compton Boulevard, it was a different story. Anyone who says that Americans have lost the desire and ability to cook fresh produce has never been to the Superior Super Warehouse in Compton. The produce section—packed with large families, most of them Hispanic—was like a dreamscape of strange and wonderful offerings: tomatillos, giant mangoes, cactus leaves, bunches of beets with their leaves on, chayote squash, red yams, yucca root. An entire string section of chiles: serrano, Anaheim, green, red, yellow. All of it was dirt cheap, as were the bulk beans and rice. Small children stood beside shopping carts with the complacent, slightly dazed look of kids whose mothers are taking care of business.

What we see at Superior Super Warehouse is an example of capitalism doing what it does best: locating a market need (in this case, poor people living in an American inner city who desire a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and who are willing to devote their time and money to acquiring them) and filling it.
 Ok, so she bought low-fat milk, no one's perfect. But the whole article is well worth reading.

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