Some fads have included diets that dramatically restrict our food choices. With the cabbage-soup and grapefruit diets, advocates identified a new miracle food and built an entire eating regimen around it, a regimen that came with a promise of shedding a full 10 lb. (4.5 kg) in one week. In both of these food-idol diets, some weight does disappear quickly, mostly through loss of fluids.
Neither diet is practical or nutritionally sound, and the weight returns as quickly as it comes off. Much more recent was the earthquake that was the Atkins diet, triggered by a 2002 article in the New York Times Magazine. The Atkins regimen -- lots of meat and very few carbohydrates (including the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables) -- had been briefly popular more than 30 years earlier but became a cultural phenomenon after the Times story breathed new life into it. Market forces fed the craze, with menus reformulated to remove the last detectable carbohydrate molecule and carb-free labels slapped on foods that never contained them in the first place. Artisanal bakers wept (no carbs means no baguettes), and the überfaithful began to suffer the bad breath of ketoacidosis, which occurs when glycogen stores are too low.
But weight was being lost, lots of it. The problem was, the loss was not being sustained. There are only so many foods you can ban before people’s palates rebel, and when you pretty much take pasta, bread, fruits and vegetables off the menu, that rebellion will happen sooner rather than later. What’s more, the foods that were permitted, particularly the much-relied-on meats, can lead to inflammation and irritation, causing some physicians to worry that heart attacks and strokes could result.