A LONG HIS­TORY OF QUICK FIXES

FAD DI­ETS CAN SPEED WEIGHT LOSS BUT HAVE RISKY SIDE EF­FECTS

Popular Science - - FOOD FATALE -

VINE­GAR

In the 19th cen­tury, Lord Byron ate mostly taters and vine­gar to stay slim; many still sip the ap­ple-cider va­ri­ety for the same ef­fect. The logic: Acetic acid in­hibits gut en­zymes that di­gest starch. Di­eters do slim down but also risk vo­cal-cord spasms, throat and stom­ach in­juries, and tooth ero­sion.

JUICE

Liq­uid fasts trace their ori­gins at least as far back as the Mas­ter Cleanse, a 1940s mix of lemon, cayenne, and maple syrup. Though mod­ern cleanses do add real pro­duce, strain­ing out the flesh ditches the fiber and some vi­ta­mins. Results are fleet­ing: It’s all just wa­ter weight.

MEAL BARS

Re­strict­ing calo­ries by swap­ping meals with cook­ies and bars has been pop­u­lar since the 1960s. Pre­por­tioned foods are an easy way to check in­take and slen­der­ize, but one pack­aged cookie has less than one-sixth your rec­om­mended fiber—a de­fi­ciency that can clog up your guts.

CAB­BAGE SOUP

The ‘80s saw di­eters eat­ing veg­gie soup for a week. Re­searchers have never paid the calo­rie-re­stric­tive plan much no­tice, but one study of obese peo­ple on a sim­i­lar one found that they lost about 5 pounds in six days— though it quickly re­turned. High in salt, the scheme also spiked blood pres­sure.

PILLS

Un­reg­u­lated as medicines by the FDA, weight-loss sup­ple­ments don’t prom­ise safety. An ex­am­ple: Ephe­dra, banned in ‘03, re­lied on ephedrine to prod the ner­vous sys­tem and curb hunger. Di­eters dropped 2 pounds a month, but the pills also upped pulse and BP. They could kill.

CHAR­COAL

Con­tem­po­rary pills and juices laced with ac­ti­vated char­coal tar­get un­spec­i­fied “tox­ins” that sup­pos­edly make us bloated. While it’s true the sub­stance’s por­ous sur­face can grab poi­sons such as pes­ti­cides and heavy me­tals, it also traps vi­ta­mins and med­i­ca­tions that we need.

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