The Most Dangerous Diets Ever

 by Adam Bornstein

Call them fads or quick fixes, but they are the last thing your body needs. Here are 11 of the worst diets ever created and their over-the-top approaches to help you lose weight.


Atkins, South Beach, The Zone. No matter what the name, there are certain diets that everyone knows and recognizes. Some people love them, others hate them, but most have a proven plan of success that isn't threatening to your health. (even if you disagree with the strategy) A real diet is one that is sustainable and easy to maintain within your lifestyle preferences. And then there are those other diets. Call them fads or quick fixes, but they are the last thing your body needs. Here are 11 of the worst diets ever created and their over-the-top approaches to help you lose weight.

The Tape Worm Diet

We promise that this one is very real—and very disturbing. Starting in the early 20th Century, tapeworms were marketed as the dieting fix for people who struggled with losing weight. The diet is fairly self-explanatory: You eat a worm (or a pill that helps a worm grow in your body) and then the worm helps reduce your appetite and allows you to drop weight. Once you reach your goal, you take medicine to kill the worm. That's not a diet—it's a disease. Thankfully this approach—and the pills that help create tapeworms in your body—was banned by the FDA. (although some people still eat the worms as a quick and dangerous fix)

The Soup Diet

This approach has several variations—the most popular versions being cabbage or chicken soup. The general premise: Eat breakfast and then spend the rest of your day filling up on soup. Is it simple? Of course. Is it healthy? Not so much. Any good diet requires you to eat foods that provide nutrients to your body for optimal functioning. This is just caloric restriction. You might lose weight, but you can do harm to your body in the process—and the likelihood of regaining the weight is extremely high.

Read more: Can You Really Lose 20 Pounds on the Soup Diet?

Grapefruit Juice Diet

You might be surprised to know that this diet goes all the way back to the 1930s. And for good reason: The diet recommends that you enjoy all your favorite foods, and has no limits on butter, dressings, or fried foods. Who wouldn't want to lose weight with that eating plan? The plan insists that you should eat the foods you like—emphasizing proteins and fats and limiting carbs—and then consume 64 ounces of grapefruit juice per day. The juice is supposed to combine with protein to rev up your fat-burning abilities. Unfortunately, science put the squeeze on the theory and there is no research to prove the bold claims made by this miracle approach.

Baby Food Diet

There are celeb diets, and there are "celeb diets." The Baby Food Diet was created by popular trainer Tracey Anderson, who has trained stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, and Jake Gyllenhaal. But she also gets credit for creating this diet, which emphasizes eating up to 14 jars of baby food per day—and then enjoying a "real" dinner (if you desire). Considering that baby food is very low in calories, it's easy to see how anyone would be able to lose weight on such a plan. But the plan has also been criticized because of a lack of nutrients for adults, and potentially increasing the likelihood of binging.

HCG Diet

You might know that hormones can impact your ability to gain and lose weight—but this diet takes hormone therapy to a new level. In the hCG diet, you inject, ingest, or rub a cream on your body to absorb the hormone hCG, which happens to derive from the human placenta. The idea is that hCG opens up your fat cells and allows you to burn fat from your trouble areas. The problem: There's no real proof of effectiveness. The diet has show weight loss, but most likely because it also requires only 800 calories per day. What's more, it's been linked to a variety of health problems, including ovarian hyper stimulation—a life-threatening disorder.

The Cookie Diet

We'll be honest: Any diet should have an allowance for treats. But a diet that revolves around dessert? That's a different story. The cookie diet relies on a basic, and seemingly appetizing premise: Eat 6 cookies per day, and then finish the day with dinner. The catch? The cookies aren't exactly your mom's recipe, as most include some form of meat protein. (yes, meat protein) The diet works for some, but only because you'll be eating about 800 to 1000 calories per day. But it's not a sustainable plan. The cookies don't taste great and will most likely have you craving real food in no time.

The Prolinn Diet

Many people remember the 1970s as a time of experimentation, and that reputation definitely holds up in nutrition. The Prolinn Diet was created by Roger Linn, a doctor who claimed he had the solution to weight loss. His diet consisted of eating nothing, which would be problematic on it's own (and not really a diet). But he added a special twist: A 400-calorie drink that he called "Prolinn." The magical potion consisted of slaughterhouse byproducts, including horns, hooves, and tendons. The diet was correlated with heart attacks and a variety of health problems.

Eat What You Want Diet

Have you ever read a book and wondered about the accuracy of the content? That's a question many people asked after reading "Calories Don't Count," by Dr. Herman Taller. On the surface the diet seemed very "Paleo-like" with an approach that consisted of eating foods packed with fat and protein and avoiding all carbs. But there was one little caveat: You also had to eat all foods with a vegetable oil pill, which was supposed to promote fat loss. The pill didn't do as promised, and the doctor was later convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy linked to his product.

The Kimkins Diet

When a magazine calls a diet "better than gastric bypass," people tend to pay attention. That's exactly what happened when Women's World slapped that praise on the Kimkins Diet, another low calorie approach that supposedly led to safe weight loss. This diet wasn't much different than many others on this list: Just eat 800 calories per day and take laxatives. The diet had testimonials—all of which turned out to be fake. And the creator, Heidi Diaz, turned out to be a fraud, who was pursued by legal authorizes after the diet was linked to several health problems. A warning from the FDA quickly thwarted its popularity, but not before the "diet" made millions of dollars.

The Tongue Patch Diet

Any diet that makes eating uncomfortable probably isn't the right approach for you. But physical pain? That takes it to another level. The tongue patch diet relies on surgically implanting a device that makes eating uncomfortable. While this might sound like something archaic, it's actually a new procedure performed by plastic surgeons. The process literally makes the eating almost unbearable, which limits most people to a restricted-calorie liquid diet. People lose weight, but it defeats the real purpose of food: Which is to nourish your body and be enjoyed. Food should be enjoyed—you just need to learn how to control calories. Not make them hurt.

The Dessert-For-Breakfast Diet

Here's a typical example of a diet plan twisting science. When researchers found that people who ate dessert lost more weight than those who didn't, it opened a dangerous window of opportunity: The dessert breakfast. If eating dessert is OK and breakfast is touted as "the most important meal of the day," why not just eat donuts, cookies, and cakes to start the day? Here's why: All of those sweets still count the same, whether you eat them in the morning or in the night; especially if you eat a lot of them. Dessert isn't the devil, but you still have to practice restraint or adjust your diet accordingly to find a time to indulge.

The Verdict?

What do you think—do you agree or disagree with our selections? Have any questions? Post your comments below and our nutrition advisors will be checking in to discuss and answer your questions.


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