History of Dietary Trends and Fads

Dietary Trends and Fads
Dietary Trends and Fads

In 1864, an overweight undertaker named William Banting wrote Letter of Corpulence, which some consider to be the first diet book ever published. Banting explained how he lost weight by eating vegetables, fish, and meat instead of bread, potatoes, and sugar. This dietary approach certainly doesn’t sound radical to us today, but the same cannot be said for many of the other diet suggestions and fads that have popped up over the centuries.

Banting definitely was not the first to come up with a way to lose weight or to achieve ideal body mass. In fact, diet fads have been around since ancient times. As the following list shows, some diets were born centuries ago only to be resurrected again in more modern times—recycled diets!

In any case, here are some of the more infamous or famous diets that people have tried over the ages.

Read about food then and now: how nutrition has changed

Apple cider vinegar diet. In the 1800s, the poet Lord Byron was reportedly the one who initiated this dietary idea. It involved drinking significant amounts of vinegar to reduce his appetite, eating potatoes drenched in vinegar, and eating hard biscuits and soda water. This dietary approach reemerged in the 1950s when people were encouraged to drink a mixture of equal amounts of honey and vinegar to lose weight. Followers claim that drinking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before each meal will curb your desire for food and cut fat.

Fletcherism, started by Horace Fletcher in the early 1900s, was based on chewing your food a minimum of 100 times. According to Horace Fletcher, chewing your food to this extent resulted in liquid and that you could not gain weight by taking in undigested food.

The Tapeworm Diet also was introduced in the early 1900s. The idea was to swallow a tapeworm or tapeworm pills and have the creature live in your stomach and consume your food intake. Whether tapeworm eggs were actually in any of the pills sold during that time is not certain. However, the entire concept is considered to be dangerous!

The Ketogenic Diet, aka the , was designed in 1923 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for the purpose of treating epilepsy. Several variations of the Keto exist, including a vegan Keto version, and it is popular as a eating plan.

The Lucky Strike Diet may actually be more of a campaign than a diet, but certainly well worth mentioning. Around 1925, the makers of Lucky Strike cigarettes told consumers to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet,” highlighting the ability of nicotine to suppress the appetite. Any association between smoking and lung cancer was not mentioned.

Grapefruit Diet, which told followers to eat half a grapefruit before every meal. This approach was born around 1930 and resurfaced decades later as the Hollywood diet. It was supposed to significantly suppress your appetite due to an enzyme found in grapefruit, although there is no significant evidence to support this claim.

Mediterranean Diet was first brought to public attention in the 1940s. This approach has been found to support heart and brain health. The eating program is based on eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, olive oil, and fish. Dairy and meat are limited. The Mediterranean diet is still considered one of the healthiest eating plans. 

Read about 5 diet plans to try in 2018

The Lemonade Diet was introduced in 1941 and was developed to help eliminate cravings for alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and junk food. The creator, Stanley Burroughs, explained that downing a mixture of lemon or lime juice, water, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup six times a day for at least 10 days would be successful. This diet quickly faded from public view but was brought back to life in 2006 by Beyonce, who said that following this plan for two weeks resulted in a 20-pound weight loss (it is now considered to be more of a detox diet than anything else).

Cabbage Soup Diet, which first became popular among celebrities in the 1950s. Cooking was simple: eat nothing but cabbage soup for seven days. The soup consists of water, dry onion soup mix, cabbage, and vegetables. The cabbage soup diet has resurfaced several times since its inception: in the early 1980s as the Dolly Parton Diet or Model Diet and then again in the mid-1990s. The claim was that a user could lose 10 to 17 pounds during the first week. 

Weight Watchers was started in 1963 by a housewife named Jean Nidetch. From a small group of friends who gathered in her home once a week, Weight Watchers has grown to involve millions of individuals today, although it has undergone several transformations.

The Atkins’ Diet became a hit after it was introduced in 1972 by Robert C. Atkins, MD. This high-protein, low-carb plan is still around and has undergone some alterations since its inception, although the basic protein/carb premise is the same.

Paleo Diet (1975) is based on the idea that our hunter-gatherer ancestors from thousands of years ago consumed grass-fed meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds but not dairy, legumes, pasta and other grain foods, sugar, or cereals.

The Last Chance Diet, which hit the market in 1976, consisted of consuming a very low-calorie liquid several times a day. The liquid was made from animal byproducts, such as tendons, hide, and horns. The diet was literally the last chance for some people, who died while following it. After that time the diet was taken off the market.

Slim Fast hit the market in 1977 and asked consumers to have a shake for breakfast, one for lunch, and then eat a sensible dinner. This dietary program is still being used today.

Dexatrim was a diet pill introduced to the market in 1979. The pill contained phenylpropanolamine (PPA), which was eventually linked to an increased risk of stroke in 2000.

Fit For Life was a plan introduced in 1985 by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. The diet forbids eating protein and complex carbohydrates at the same meal and eating fruits before noon.

The Zone Diet attracted the attention of celebrities in 1995. It asks users to follow a specific ratio of protein, fat, and carbs at each meal.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension; 1990s) was designed to help lower blood pressure, a problem that affects approximately one third of the adult population in the United States. The DASH diet, which is still popular today, is based on lean meat, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains and can help with weight loss.

Blood Type Diet (1997) was started by a Naturopath named Peter D’Adamo, who insisted individuals should eat according to their blood type. Those who have O blood, for example, should follow a higher-protein/lower carb diet, while those with A and AB blood types should be mainly vegetarian.

Alkaline Diet (aka, alkaline ash diet) focuses on altering the acidity or pH value in the body by the foods you choose. It also can help you lose weight and prevent health problems such as arthritis and cancer. Foods such as wheat, meat, processed foods, and refined sugar promote acid and are taboo. Foods to eat on the alkaline diet include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.

The South Beach Diet (2003) was brought to the public’s attention by Arthur Agatston, MD. This diet is a moderate version of the low-carb Atkins’ diet.

MIND Diet (2015) is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and DASH. The focus is on foods that promote and support brain health, help prevent dementia, and enhance brain function.

Some diets are clearly fads and promise quick fixes that are transient or even dangerous. Others are based on solid, well-researched, healthy values and ultimately provide satisfying results. Then there are those that keep coming back, resurrected with new nuances. Basically, achieving lasting weight loss is not a diet but rather a mindset that requires dedication to an eating plan that works with your lifestyle, is healthful overall, and enhances your lifestyle rather than impedes it.

The history of diets. Man v Fat 2018 Apr 26
Lord Byron: the celebrity diet icon. BBC News magazine 2012 Jan 3
Rotchford L. Diets through history: the good, bad, and scary. Health.com
Tapeworm diet pills. Snopes 2014 Aug 22
Wdowik M. The long strange history of dieting fads. The Conversation 2017 Nov 6
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