Diet trends over the last 100 years

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Diet trends are like fashion trends, old styles are constantly recycled, re-branded, and re-marketed as new ones. Juices, high protein diets, and a slew of other current fads have been around for a 100 years. Here we’ll talk about how these diets have changed over time, though not surprisingly, the “science” and rationale (or lack thereof) behind them hasn’t.

Liquid Diets

Two popular diets today were also popular in the early 20th century: juices or liquid diets and a high protein – high fat diets. The original juice diet was introduced by a guy named Horace Fletcher and it was called “Fletcherism.” It was thought that drinking your food would help you eat less and it worked because while you’re on the diet, you reduce your caloric intake. However, the moment you resume regular eating habits, you’ll gain all the weight back. It was true back then and it’s true today. 

SlimFast Diet

A spin on this liquid diet was the SlimFast diet, where people replace some meals with shakes while reducing their caloric intake to about 1200 per day. The downside to this is that your metabolism slows down because your body thinks you’re starving to death. Once again, when people resumed their usual eating habits, their weight went back up. And then some.

Inuit Diet

In the late 1920’s, the high protein – high fat diet was called the Friendly Arctic Diet. An anthropologist saw how the Inuit’s ate. He thought, “What a great way for everyone else to eat and lose weight!” Unfortunately, when you apply this type of diet to people who are not mushing dogs in subzero temperatures, all you end up with is obesity.

Atkins, Keto, Low-Carb Diet

Today, this diet has been rebranded as the Atkins Diet, the Keto Diet, or the Low-Carb Diet. It makes sense that if you take away carbohydrates, the cell’s main source of energy, your body will start to burn fat and proteins. While this diet might work for diabetics, it increases LDL – the bad cholesterol – and contributes to higher overall cholesterol.

Diet Cleanses

In the 21st century, the marketing of diets changed from calories to cleansing. Instead of focusing on calories, these diets focus on detoxifying and flushing out impurities. You’ve probably seen them advertised as The Master Cleanse Diet or the Detox Diet. To be honest, it really is brilliant marketing, except for the fact that it’s ignoring the job of the liver. In any individual that has a working liver (that’s everyone who isn’t in liver failure), toxins are processed and flushed out of the body regularly.

Gluten-Free Diet

Another diet trend that is growing today is the gluten-free diet. Originally, this was a diet for people with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition where villi are flattened in the small intestine and absorption of nutrients is severely hindered. Combining this with the anti-inflammation diet, non-Celiac people started jumping on board, blaming gluten for every little intestinal gurgle. Ironically, most people who are on the gluten-free diet have no idea what gluten is. FYI: it’s a group of proteins found in certain grains.

Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

An honorable mention should go to the Apple Cider Vinegar diet. This diet was based on one study focused on Japanese women. The idea is that vinegar is an acid that kills bacteria, which should be a good thing, but it ignores the fact that our stomach is full of hydrochloric acid – pretty strong stuff without the vinegar. Not to mention that some bacteria are good, you don’t want to kill them. Plus, any nutritional benefits from the “apple” part of “apple cider vinegar” can be gained from just eating an apple.

There’s No Magic To Weight Loss

What we’ve learned about diet trends in the last 100 years is that people are desperate to lose weight and with clever advertising, they can be sold almost anything. Even if it’s been tried before, even if it’s been debunked before. In the end, except for amputation, fewer calories and more activity is the only proven way to drop the pounds.

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