was William Banting's Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, published in England in 1863. It advocated a low-carb diet with an emphasis on proteins, fruits, and vegetables and avoiding sweets and starches, which is actually a pretty reasonable weight loss plan. In the intervening 148 years, though, corpulence has surged and diet plans have multiplied with dozens of new schemes of varying efficacy and safety cycling in and out of popularity each year. Here's a rundown of some of the most popular diets of 2011 - the practical, the useless, and the dangerous.
1. Dukan Diet
Dukan is a French diet that was introduced in the US when its founder's book was published here last spring. It's been called the "French Atkins," which gives you a pretty good idea of how it works - lots of animal protein, very little in the way of carbs at first, with more foods being reintroduced to the diet over time. People swear by Dukan and it will probably help you lose weight in the short term, but I think it's good to be wary of any diet that warns you off veggies (even for a little while).
Learn more about the Dukan diet
2. DASH Diet
Like the paleo diet, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which was created by the NIH and is now promoted by the USDA, isn't meant to be a weight-loss plan, but a healthy way of eating generally. DASH recommends more vegetables, whole grains, and fruit, as well as more protein from nuts, beans, and dairy, while avoiding processed foods, red meat, and sugar. DASH calls for a serious adjustment rather than a radical break from most Americans' eating habits, making it a more do-able plan for most people. It's also been more closely studied than your average fad diet, so you can be pretty confident this one will actually work.
Learn more about the DASH diet
Related: The Detox Diet - Foods to help you flush your system
3. Paleo Diet
Premised on the idea that the healthiest diet for humans is the one that our hunter-gatherer ancestors evolved to eat, the paleo diet focuses on types of foods that people ate before the advent of agriculture -- meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts, and seeds and avoiding foods such as dairy, legumes, grain, sugar, and salt. Strictly speaking, the paleo diet isn't so much a weight-loss plan as a diet that aims to promote overall health. Critics dispute the meat-to-veggies ratio the paleo diet supports and there's actually a lot of uncertainty about what our ancestors ate (even with contemporary hunter-gatherers there are wide differences in diet). To the extent that this diet will drastically reduce your intake of carbs and sugar, it's a pretty safe bet if weight loss is your goal.
Learn more about the paleo diet
4. The 17 Day Diet
The 17 Day Diet is a weight loss plan that probably works in spite of itself. The basic notion is alternating 17 day cycles of strict caloric restriction with seventeen day cycles that allow for slightly more calories will help the body improve its metabolism. Like most of the diets on this list, The 17 Day Diet encourages dieters to avoid carbs and sugar. For this reason, and the caloric restriction, this diet is probably an effective way to lose weight in short term, although not as rapidly as is claimed and not for the reasons given.
Learn more about The 17 Day Diet
5. Gluten-Free Diet
There are a variety of gluten-free diets that people undertake for a range of reasons, but what they all have in common is that they forbid grains like wheat, barley, rye, and foods processed where those grains are present. For people with Celiac disease and a few other conditions, a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity. For the rest of us, any improved feeling is probably just a result of the placebo effect. However, to the extent that it reduces the amount of starch and processed food practitioners eat, it probably does help with weight-loss and overall health.
Learn more about the gluten-free diet
Related: The hidden effects of not getting enough sleep
6. Juice Cleanse
Juice cleanses are a contemporary take on the more severe Master Cleanse, made popular in the 1990's. Seen by some as a way to purify the body, and get rid of toxins accrued over time, this diet relies mostly on purchased packages of juice made just for cleansing, and lasts about 3 days. Used moderately, once or twice a year, juice cleanses can be effective, but regular use can be dangerous since juice is very high in sugar and can cause extreme fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Learn more about a juice fast
7. Cinch Diet
The Cinch diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet that was popular a few years ago. It has two phases -- during the first five days you eat nothing but eggs, spinach, almonds, raspberries, and yogurt. After that, you eat meals that focus on veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, plant fats, and seasonings. Red meat, pork, and alcohol are all out, so I'll pass on this diet, even if I do like the focus on veggies and whole grains.
Learn more about the Cinch diet
For 5 more of the top diet trends of 2011, visit Babble!
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