Throwback fad diets that did more harm than good
From swallowing tapeworms to eating grapefruit at every single meal, fad diets have dished up some pretty wild fat-busting methods over the years.
For decades, a never-ending stream of fanciful diets have emerged, promising to shed kilos and bring a healthier life.
They often seem like a magic fix at first – but, in most cases, end up being a blip on the weight-loss horizon, says dietitian Melanie McGrice.
“I am pretty surprised people are still doing them and investing in new ones even though deep down we all know that they are not going to work,” says Melanie, of the Dietitians Association of Australia.
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How to spot a fad diet
When it comes to weight loss, experts say the best way to a leaner body is through healthy habits.
Dietitian Seema Singh Kashyap says any diet promising drastic results “without the scientific evidence” should be a red flag.
She also recommends staying clear of eating plans – often endorsed by celebrities – that use odd food combinations or exclude entire food groups.
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And when you look back through the history books, some fad diets do seem a little more unbelievable than others:
The Grapefruit Diet
Supporters of this diet claim grapefruit has extra fat-burning abilities.
It advocates eating lots of eggs and meat, and at least one coffee a day, along with grapefruit before or with every meal.
“It is essentially a low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet that uses grapefruit as the sales pitch, but it’s not going to last long term,” says Melanie.
It sounds extremely ridiculous now that we know its myriad health risks, but smoking was once considered a good dieting technique.
Back in the 1920s, a cigarette brand introduced the diet by encouraging people to smoke instead of eat sweets.
People used cigarettes purposely to control their weight, ignoring the impacts on lungs, heart and general physical wellbeing.
The Chocolate Diet
Probably the tastiest diet ever, this fad – that included eating dark chocolate everyday – seemed too good to be true.
And of course, it was not.
It was dreamed up by a biologist showing how easy it was to spread false health news.
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The Sleeping Beauty Diet
Experts have slammed this regimen, which promotes sleeping longer so that you don’t eat.
But Melanie warns not only are dieters literally starving themselves, but the reported use of sedatives to sleep longer is dangerous.
The Cabbage Soup Diet
Sold as fast weight-loss eating plans, soup diets drastically restrict calories.
This one involves eating a cabbage-based broth for up to seven days due to the lack of carbohydrates and proper nutrients.
Seema says supporters will lose weight – but they’re also likely to have intense hunger, physical discomfort and weight gain in the longer term.
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The Tapeworm Diet
Swallowing tapeworms, which attach to the intestine and feed off the body’s nutrients? No thanks.
Melanie says unsurprisingly, the tapeworm diet is not recommended by doctors and can be very dangerous, resulting in nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pain and in extreme cases death.
The Alkaline Diet
It involves going vegan, however it’s much more restrictive, cutting out wholegrains and refined sugars.
“The philosophy is that these foods have a more alkaline PH and help you burn more calories, but it is not based on evidence,” Melanie says.
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Written by Alex White.