Celebrity diets and food fads have been around for centuries – and some of them even worked – News24

December 14, 2021 by No Comments

The word diet originates from the Greek dieta meaning to live normally. However, nowadays it mostly refers to restricting food to help weight loss rather than a way to enjoy food and health.

Throughout history diets have come and gone. Celebrity diets are popular and often bizarre, but are not a new thing. The Daniel Fast, which resembles a vegan diet, and which has its roots in the Book of Daniel, is perhaps one of the earliest examples of a diet.

In around 450BC Daniel apparently asked if his men were as strong as the Babylonians after a couple of weeks just eating vegetables. This highlights our deep cultural links to diet: for identity, spirituality and, of course, health.

Fasting diets appear throughout our cultural history, seen in Muslim, Hindu and Christian practices. These vary from not eating during daylight through to just eating a simple vegetarian diet. In the Christian calendar, for instance, historically specific days used to be designated as meat free. The data is mixed in relation to the health effects of religious fasting, as it depends on how people eat in between fasts.

Fasting may have little to no additional benefits beyond simply inducing a calorie deficit, which itself can have metabolic benefits (lower blood fats and sugars) and weight loss.

Meat-free diets

Another theme from fasting is the abstinence from meat and animal products. This was seen in the rise of the vegetarian movement in northern England during the 19th century. This movement inspired food entrepreneurs, including William Kellogg (famous for cereals) and Sylvester Graham (crackers), to develop alternative products.

The principle behind these being to follow a simple and pious diet to improve the body, mind and spirit. The followers of this movement linked eating animal products to sin and poor health.

The merits of this argument are more philosophical than physiological. But in the age of climate change awareness, the argument to reduce animal produce in our diets has perhaps reemerged as one of the tools we have to save the planet.

The first diet doctor?

The 18th-century doctor George Cheyne was mocked in the press due to his weight (at one point estimated at 220kg). Many of the wealthier Georgian households would have at the time consumed a high-calorie diet, with large meals of many meats including beef sirloin and pigeon.

Cheyne developed the “vegetable and milk” diet with fewer calories. His own diet included milk, tea, coffee, bread, butter, mild cheese, fruits, nuts and tender roots including turnips and carrots. He drank no alcohol, barring an occasional small glass of cider.


Source: https://www.news24.com/health24/diet-and-nutrition/celebrity-diets-and-food-fads-have-been-around-for-centuries-and-some-of-them-even-worked-20211214-4


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