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Fad Diets Through the Ages

Susan Stevens Daily Herald Health Writer

Posted May 5, 2006

1727: Thomas Short writes "The Causes and Effects of Corpulance," advising overweight people to move to arid climates because fat people were more likely to live near swamps.

1830: Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, an avowed vegetarian, rails against refined flour, coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol. He preaches the virtues of a bland, meat-free diet with plenty of whole-grain breads and crackers (such as his namesake graham crackers).

1863: London undertaker William Banting writes "A Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public," a pamphlet detailing his 50- pound weight loss by avoiding potatoes, beer, butter, bread and carrots. Across the Atlantic, Americans refer to dieting as "Banting."

1903: San Francisco art dealer Horace Fletcher avows a weight- loss technique that requires chewing each bite 32 times, one for each tooth, and then spitting out whatever food remained. According to his theory, your body will absorb the nutrients it needs, and you'll enjoy the flavor of food without gaining weight.

1917: Lulu Hunt Peters publishes the book "Diet and Health, With Key to the Calories," ushering in generations of calorie-counters. The book sells more than 2 million copies promoting a 1,200- calorie- a-day regime.

Early 1930s: Dr. William Hay, a victim of high blood pressure, urges dieters to consume fruit, meat and dairy separate from bread and potatoes. He argues the human body can't digest proteins and starches at the same time.

1930s: The grapefruit diet first becomes popular. The 12-day diet allows only a few veggies plus grapefruit or grapefruit juice with every meal, based on the premise that grapefruit burns fat.

1951: Gayelord Houser develops a diet of natural grains, vegetables, blackstrap molasses, yogurt, brewer's yeast, wheat germ and powdered skim milk that he peddles to Hollywood's elite. His book "Look Younger, Live Longer" draws converts including Greta Garbo.

1960s: The high-fiber cabbage soup diet has dieters eating mainly cabbage soup, fruit and vegetables for a week.

1960s: The extremely low-calorie Hollywood diet instructs dieters to eat nothing but a special juice blend for 48 hours, claiming it will promote fat burning.

1961: Weight Watchers is founded by a New York housewife who has friends over weekly to discuss weight-loss strategies.

1964: Robert Cameron publishes his best-selling "The Drinking Man's Diet," which says it's possible to wash down a steak with a martini and still lose weight.

1972: Atkins publishes his diet plan. He claims a low- carbohydrate diet is the key to weight loss because carbs cause high insulin levels.

1978: Harman Tarnower publishes "The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet." The rigid, high-protein diet tells users exactly what to eat for two weeks and becomes a best seller.

1979: Nathan Pritikin publishes a high-carb, low-fat diet that requires carefully planning meals based on calorie content.

1980s: Weight Watchers becomes popular. The plan assigns a point value to foods, and each dieter is given a daily points target based on his or her weight.

1980s: Slim-Fast combines the company's meal replacement shakes and snacks with a single, balanced meal a day.

1981: On Judy Mazel's Beverly Hills diet, particular fruits are assigned specific roles (for example, papaya softens fat, pineapple burns it off, watermelon flushes it out).

1988: OptiFast shakes help Oprah Winfrey lose 67 pounds. She gains it back.

1990s: The low-fat Nutri-System diet uses meal-replacement foods to promote weight loss. The diet has about 60 percent carbs, 20 percent protein and 20 percent fat.

1990s: Barry Sears' "Zone Diet" claims that the body should stay within a hormonally controlled zone. The diet restricts "bad" carbs such as pasta, potatoes and bread.

1993: The book "Eat Right 4 Your Type" claims blood type deterines your ideal diet. For example, people with type A blood are naturally vegetarians. Type O: you're a carnivore.

1993: The Dean Ornish Life Choice Diet comes at the height of the low-fat diet craze. The diet features extreme low-fat meals full of vegetables.

1997: Atkins makes a comeback with an updated version, "Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution." He claims carbs are the enemy because they lead to the production of insulin, the "fat-producing hormone."

1999: Suzanne Somers releases "Get Skinny on Fabulous Food." She claims that when proteins and carbohydrates are eaten together, their enzymes "cancel each other out," restricting digestion and causing weight gain.

2003: The South Beach diet identifies good versus bad carbohydrates and claims that restricting carbs promotes weight loss.

2005: Atkins Nutritionals files for bankruptcy, signaling the end of the low-carb era.

Date: May 3, 2006

© 2006 Chicago Daily Herald. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved
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