While 2014 was the year of the 5:2 diet, 2015 looks to be the year of the paleo diet, a nutritional routine which allows you to only consume foods eaten by early human beings.
For some people, this so-called ‘caveman’ diet is going too far; for others, it represents the perfect way to eliminate processed foods from our daily consumption. But whatever you think of the paleo diet, it’s far from the weirdest health food fad in history.
The vinegar diet
Legendary 19th century poet Lord Byron obsessed about his weight, reports the BBC, and once went on a diet that required him to drink vinegar and eat vinegar-soaked potatoes. Unsurprisingly, it caused vomiting and diarrhoea and, much like today’s celebrities, Byron came under fierce criticism for the effect that his diet might have on young people of the time.
Even though it sounds like an old-fashioned myth long since debunked, variations of the vinegar diet still crop up in the 21st century. Recently, the apple cider vinegar diet has had some modest popularity amongst celebrities: it involves drinking three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to curb food cravings, though there is no evidence to suggest that it works.
The cotton wool diet
It sounds like a hoax but apparently has legs: the almost mythical cotton wool diet followed by supermodels is apparently a real thing. The story goes that professional supermodels have been known to swallow orange juice soaked in cotton wool to suppress hunger cravings. While it’s true that cotton wool has little to no calories, its nutritional value is also nought. Worse still, it’s not digestible so could cause serious damage to your guts. Medical professionals advise against this diet.
As recently as the 1920s, the tapeworm diet held some currency with those hoping to lose weight. It sounds like the perfect quick fix: simply swallow a tapeworm, so they eat some of the food that makes its way into your stomach. But there are significant health risks to this dubious strategy, as tapeworms may multiply in your body and the nature of these parasitic beings means that they remove the nutrition you need from your body, causing sickness. Thankfully, people now know more about the harmful effects of having a tapeworm living inside your body.
Chew and spit diet
Also known as Fletcherism after Horace Fletcher, its proponent. At the turn of the 20th century, this diet involved chewing food until its nutrition was extracted, then spitting it out. Fletcher prescribed chewing food 100 times a minute. Although it seems ridiculous, it was very popular and, the BBC reveals, counted the famous writers Franz Kafka and Henry James among its followers.
What are the strangest fad diets you’ve ever heard of?