Top 5 strangest fad diets

Wanna lose weight? How does eating only pineapple and lamb chops sound? Maybe receiving all your sustenance through a feeding tube instead?

  • It's perfectly normal to want a healthy body. But like everything in life, moderation is the key.
  • Some people want the ideal body so bad, they're willing to make any number of bizarre changes to their lives. And pop nutritionists, dietitians, and public figures are more than happy to sell ill-advised diets to them.
  • Here's just 5 of some of the strangest fad diets through history.

Everybody wants to be slim. There's nothing wrong with that. But some people are downright obsessed with slimness, and when you're obsessed with something, you'll do anything to get it, even if that thing is totally absurd, unhealthy, or dangerous. Here's a list of 5 of the strangest fad diets that people actually used to try and get their beach bod.

1. The Morning Banana Diet

When this diet reared its head in 2008, it was next to impossible to find any bananas in Japanese supermarkets. The Japanese were going. . . nuts for bananas. It's a pretty straightforward diet: You can have an unlimited number of bananas for breakfast and a cup of room-temperature water. Your meals for lunch and dinner can be whatever you like.

The creator of the banana diet, a pharmacist named Sumiko Watanabe, developed it for her overweight husband, who claimed to have lost 37 pounds following this method. Ultimately, diet books on the morning banana method would sell more than 730,000 copies.

2. The Immune Power Diet

According to a Stuart Berger, author of Dr. Berger's Immune Power Diet, a significant number of people have hidden allergies to different foods that can cause AIDS and obesity over time. He suggested that people eliminate the "sinister seven" foods from their diets, which include dairy, wheat, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, and sugar. Doing so would ostensibly prevent these hidden allergies from being triggered.

Of course, none of this is remotely backed up by science. In fact, some of Berger's recommendations weren't just unscientific but downright harmful. In his book, he recommended people take huge doses of vitamin B6 in quantities that could cause nerve damage. Later, when Dr. Berger's own lifestyle habits caught up with him: his obesity and cocaine addiction had seriously damaged his heart, ultimately leading to his death from heart disease.

3. The Lamb Chop and Pineapple Diet

Photo credit: Julien Pianetti on Unsplash

Fad diets aren't just a creature of modern life — the "Lamb Chop and Pineapple Diet" was popular among Hollywood actresses in the 1920s. Clearly, it involved eating lamb chops and pineapples. You might think that it functioned similarly to the Morning Banana Diet, where you'd replace one meal with lamb chops and pineapples. You'd be wrong. Instead, this diet recommended replacing every meal with just lamb chops and pineapples.

The theory behind the diet was that the acidic pineapple would somehow "negate" the fat in the lamb chops — needless to say, this wasn't the mechanism that made the diet function. Although the diet did cause people to lose weight due to the caloric restrictions brought on by eating nothing besides lamb chops and pineapples, it also caused malnutrition. Human beings, apparently, are not meant to eat only lamb chops and pineapples.

4. Jordan Peterson's all-beef diet

Controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson was inspired to eat an all-beef diet after observing his daughter's health improvements from following the same diet. After a slew of apparently unsolvable health problems, Mikhaila Peterson began cutting things out of her diet. Eventually, she cut out everything except for beef, salt, and water and then claimed that her health problems improved.

Jordan Peterson did the same thing, losing 50 pounds over seven months. Peterson also claimed to have shed similar lifelong maladies such as depression, anxiety, gastric reflux, and other conditions. However, he warned that minor deviations from this diet can have major consequences. After drinking some apple cider during this diet, Peterson claimed that his body had a catastrophic inflammatory response, and he couldn't sleep for 25 days.

Is this diet, then, a good idea? Professor Jack Gilbert provided the answer in an interview with the Atlantic:

"Physiologically, it would just be an immensely bad idea. A terribly, terribly bad idea. Your body would start to have severe dysregulation, within six months, of the majority of the processes that deal with metabolism; you would have no short-chain fatty acids in your cells; most of the by-products of gastrointestinal polysaccharide fermentation would shut down, so you wouldn't be able to regulate your hormone levels; you'd enter into cardiac issues due to alterations in cell receptors; your microbiota would just be devastated."

5. The feeding tube diet

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

It's about as horrible as you would imagine. A feeding tube is inserted through the nose of the dieter, and an electric pump consistently pushes a slurry of proteins, fats, and micronutrients that amounts to about 800 calories per day. The diet can cause constipation, for which laxatives can be administered. Because the pump is continuous and it features zero carbohydrates, dieters claim they don't feel hungry at all.

It's a very bad idea. Doctors warn that this diet can cause kidney failure and, due to the insertion of a feeding tube for days at a time, aspiration, lung infections, and the erosion of tissues in the nose and throat. Since this qualifies as a "crash diet," or a diet designed for rapid weight loss, people tend to just return to their old eating habits afterward, gaining the weight back.

What's more, crash diets are associated with the development of eating disorders. So, if you really want to lose weight, maybe go for something slightly less radical than shoving a tube down your nose.

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Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

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  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.