A LONG HISTORY OF QUICK FIXES
FAD DIETS CAN SPEED WEIGHT LOSS BUT HAVE RISKY SIDE EFFECTS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.