Saturday, January 12, 2013

Failed Fad Diets: 1820-1950

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Through the ages, many people have been searching for a magic diet—the end all, be all of food prescriptions, one that would give longevity, balance ones constitution, and, especially in recent years, tackle weight problems. Below is a timeline of fad diets that, though retrospectively seem ridiculous, were at one point the solution to all food qualms.

1820: Vinegar and Water Diet Lord Byron, a Romantic poet, made this diet famous. There is now evidence that the Ancient Egyptians believed in its power, too.

1830: Graham’s Diet preached by the Presbyterian Minister Sylvester Graham, this diet stressed the importance of a bland, meat-free diet. As the name suggests, a lasting piece of the diet is the Graham Cracker.

1863: Banting’s Low-Carbohydrate Diet William Banting set the precedent for diet books when he chronicled how he, a casket maker, lost 50 pounds by following a diet of lean meats, dry toast, and fruit and green vegetables.

1903: Fletcherizing Promoted by Horace Fletcher, this method purported chewing each bite of food 32 times (once for each tooth), and then spitting out the food. The rational was that the body would absorb all the nutrients it needed through chewing. Today’s science strongly disproves this rational.

1928: Inuit Meat-and-Fat Diet The Inuit of the northern frozen tundra traditionally eat a diet where 98% of their food comes from caribou, raw fish, and whale blubber. When arctic explorer and ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson lived among the people for a short time in 1928, he reemerged into society raving about the positive health effects of the diet.

1930: Hay Diet Warning of “digestive explosion,” Dr. Hay cautioned against consuming fruit, meat, and dairy during the same meal, separate also from bread and potatoes. He also recommended regular enemas.

1934: Bananas and Skim Milk Diet This diet hit the scene when United Fruit Co. had a surplus of bananas to sell, after Dr. George Harrop found that it had “healthy effects on the body.” 

1950: Grapefruit Diet Half a grapefruit and a high protein diet (requiring the consumption of bacon), but without consumption of carbohydrates and limited intake of coffee. This diet was also named the Hollywood diet because of its popularity amongst those in Hollywood trying to “reduce,” or lose weight.

It is clear that some of these diets are anything but “healthy”—in any sense of the word. Unfortunately, there is no magic diet plan; the best that you can do for your body is to find a happy balance of all food groups, indulge in moderation, and exercise regularly. And, fortunately, Bon’App can help you understand what you are putting into your body!


  1. I think pgx would end the list of the hoax magic diet. To be honest I've tried many fad diets but none would made me thin. But when I took pgx daily for about two months, it made me lose a significant number of pounds. The good thing is that I also felt great.

    Geoff Granfeld Jr

  2. I don't think taking grapefruits to reduce weight failed, its effective. Grapefruit is good for body building for beginners, substitute it with rice and takes lots of protein. But don't just take grapefruit alone or else your muscles will shrink.

    Sophie Tyler Neil

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  4. Reading these list of dieting makes me wonder about the current list of diets. But it is understandable that people would look for solutions to any problem that they encounter. Fortunately, we have science in our side now so as to dismiss the more outrageous ones.

    -Charlotte Shea

  5. To be honest, with so many studies about diets, I don't know what to follow anymore. I just eat moderately, take away the fatty food from my meals, and exercise regularly. Cycling helps - a lot!

    - Ashley Rubin

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