THE BLOG
08/21/2013 02:56 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2013

The 'Comeback' of the Twinkie: 22.5 Billion Calories (and Counting) That Americans Don't Need

While the demise of the Twinkie last November saw uproarious cries, outrageous eBay bidding wars, and passionate tweets in the street, it seemed that Americans had finally accepted that life would go on without the beloved Twinkie, and that we would all live happily (and healthily) ever after.

However, it seems that Hostess needed a blockbuster sequel to help ensure its post-bankruptcy rebound. Earlier last month, the company reinstated the Twinkie and several other popular "snack" cakes that America had learned to live without for the past seven months. While the returning snack cake is slightly lower in calories and size than the original, the shelf-life has extended from 25 days to an even more unsettling 45 days -- I suspect that the 39 ingredients involved in making a Twinkie have something to do with that.

Coincidentally, this came just weeks after the American Medical Association declared that obesity should be labeled a disease. Regardless of your feelings toward the new label (thoughts are welcome in the comments), two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

What Hostess self-proclaimed as "The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever" is far from sweet when you look at what it's costing American corporations. Employer health care costs increased an estimated 8.5 percent in 2012 and are up about 36 percent from five years ago. Meanwhile, obesity costs U.S. employers $150 billion in lost productivity -- a portion of overall disengaged employees, which are costing employers more than half a trillion dollars annually in lost productivity -- all due to workers who are less fit, less engaged and just plain don't want to be at work. The unfortunate reality behind the numbers is that while the average self-insured employer in the U.S. pays $10,000 for an employee's health care per year, on average, 70 percent of that amount ($7,000) is spent on chronic conditions that are absolutely preventable with a healthy diet and exercise.

When examining the decrease in America's health and increase in dollars spent, this begs the question: Why are we celebrating the comeback of a "snack" that is actually a chock-full-of-preservatives-non-food-item representative of what is getting our nation so sick and driving up health care costs in the first place? The Twinkie (and other snack cakes) came back to what Hostess reported as record demands, projecting that the first two weeks of its comeback would stock 50 million Twinkies and 35 million CupCakes on store shelves. The two "snacks" combined come out to a grand total of 13.8 billion calories, 259.5 million grams of fat, 1.6 billion grams of sugar and 19.6 billion grams of sodium. Beyond that, for just Twinkies alone, new orders have been placed for another 100 million units; this means another 15 billion calories, 450 million grams of fat, 1.8 billion grams of sugar and 22 billion grams of sodium will soon be added to store shelves.

This is a monumental step backwards.

The Twinkie, while nostalgic and iconic in every way, represents just that: the old way of doing things. Those arguing that we should be able to (literally) have our cake and eat it too need only to look at the obesity stats mentioned above. According to Trust for America's Health, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent 20 years ago. Today, more than two out of three states, 38 total, have obesity rates over 25 percent. We are a nation desperately in need of change and we didn't get here by accident.

Obesity is linked to more than 60 chronic diseases. If we can solve the obesity problem, we can put an end to the majority of cases of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc. that result from obesity. But for there to be meaningful change it will take a series of actions that work to rehabilitate us from years of unhealthy habits and behaviors, not one celebration for a piece of the (more than likely cream-filled) pie that got us here in the first place.

Do you think the return of the Twinkie is going to help or hurt the health of Americans? Discussion in the comments is welcome.

Upon discovering that no nutritional information or any of the 39 ingredients that make up the Twinkie are listed on the Hostess corporate website, the Keas team has set up "#TwinkieWatch2013," to test and observe the new 45-day shelf life. You can join in the journey by following the blog posts and following @Keas and the corresponding hashtag.

For more health news, click here.

For more by Josh Stevens, click here.