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2 Rather Curious Fad Diets

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Weight loss is a common topic, as any number of ads, articles, news segments and infomercials are likely to let you know. We are all aware that if we cut our intake and hit the gym, we'll lose some of that excess padding. But what if eating in moderation and regular exercise aren't viable options? There are myriad modern diets that suggest one key food or habit, or extol their own magic pill "“ be it a large dose of caffeine, or a large dose of ephedra, or a mixture of caffeine and ephedra "“ so we must restrict ourselves to a choice few. Or, because I drew this spot on The Countdown, just two.

1. The Tape Worm Diet

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Marketed near the turn of the century, the Tape Worm Diet centered on weight loss capsules whose secret ingredient was tapeworm eggs (I should add the word "purportedly," for truth in advertising was never the strongest suit of such marketers). This diet's efficacy is not often disputed (though an intestinal worm can cause pockets of fluid called ascites to collect in the abdomen, causing distention and ruining the figure). Introducing an intestinal parasite that robs the host of calories and nutrients will cause the host to lose weight. It is also likely to cause, depending on the species of worm, a host of other side effects. In the case of the common beef tapeworm, which is benign relative to some other worms, these side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and intestinal blockage. So, probably not the best idea. However, in the interest of fairness, I should mention that there other opinions. [Image courtesy of the Museum of Quackery.]

2. The Grapefruit Diet

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While dating back to the 1930s, this diet became popular in the 1970s, and is one of the stranger fads that keeps coming back. The basic premise is that grapefruit juice has the ability to lower insulin levels, a hormone that plays an important part in how and when you gain weight.

Here are the rules:
1. You must drink 64oz. of water a day.
2. At any meal you may eat until you are full.
3. You must eat the minimum amount of food listed at each meal.
4. You cannot eliminate anything from the diet. Even the bacon, as it is essential to the whole thing working.
5. Drink or eat exactly the amount of grapefruit.
6. Don't eat between meals.
7. Eat or use as much butter as you like.
8. Do not eat desserts, breads, white vegetables or sweet potatoes.
9. You may double or triple helpings of meat, salad or vegetables.
10. Eat until you are stuffed. The more you eat the more weight you will lose.
11. Stay on the diet 12 days, then stop the diet for 2 days and repeat.

These rules accompany a list of acceptable meals. Commentary would only diminish this diet's beauty.

What peculiar diet fads do you have experience with? Did they work?

Erik Dies is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
7 Fun Facts for Elephant Appreciation Day
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Happy Elephant Appreciation Day! Celebrate the occasion with some facts about everyone's favorite gentle giant. 

1. ELEPHANTS CAN RECOGNIZE OTHER ELEPHANT CARCASSES.

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The University of Sussex's Karen McComb told National Geographic that elephants "become excited and agitated if they come across a dead elephant," and, in particular, will investigate skulls and tusks. McComb teamed up with researchers at the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya to study the behavior, showing wild elephants a range of objects that included skulls. They found that the elephants examined skulls—and tusks in particular—of their own kind twice as long as other skulls, and examined tusks six times as long as they did pieces of wood. They were even able to recognize elephant skulls with the tusks removed, but didn't show preference for certain elephant skulls over others, which suggests they didn't know which skulls belonged to their own relatives. "Animals that are intensely social in life may be most likely to display an interest in their dead," McComb told National Geographic. "But what goes on in their minds while they are doing this is a total mystery."

2. THEY'RE SCARED OF BEES.

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Forget about mice scaring off elephants: When farmers need to keep elephants away from their crops, they should use bees. Researchers in Kenya discovered that even the recorded sound of buzzing bees was enough to make elephants retreat—and cause them to emit a low-frequency sound, inaudible to humans, that warns other elephants of the bees' presence.

"It's impossible to cover Africa in electric fences," Lucy King, author of the paper, told The Huffington Post. "The infrastructure doesn't exist in many places and it would restrict animals' movement." But something like a bee fence—hives strung on strong wires a certain distance apart that would move when elephants walked into them, disturbing the hives—"could be a better way to direct elephants away from farmers' crops," she said.

3. THEY MIGHT UNDERSTAND POINTING.

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Humans often use pointing as a way to nonverbally get a message across, though not many other animals grasp the concept. But according to a two-month study of 11 tame African elephants, these pachyderms might be able to: When presented with two identical buckets and pointed in the direction of the one containing food, elephants picked up on the cue fairly consistently: Elephants had a success rate of 67.5 percent (1-year-old humans have a success rate of 72.7 percent). But an earlier study of Asian elephants indicated that they don’t notice pointing gestures, which is a bit of a mystery.

4. ONE ELEPHANT CAN "TALK." 

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Koshik, an elephant in a South Korean zoo, developed the ability to imitate the sounds of five words he's heard from his trainer—annyeong (hello), anja (sit down), aniya (no), nuwo (lie down), and joa (good)—by sticking his trunk in his mouth. The scientists who first noticed Koshik’s ability speculate that he learned to “talk” because he was lonely.

5. THEY'RE DIGITIGRADES.

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It's Latin for "finger walking," and what it means is that elephants walk on their toes (there are five of them, as well a sixth false toe). According to the book Mammal Anatomy: An Illustrated Guidemost of the animals' weight "rests on a broad pad of elastic tissue behind the toes" which "acts as a shock absorber and prevents the skeleton from jolting too much when the animals walk. It also allows elephants to move surprisingly quietly despite their size."

6. AN ELEPHANT PREGNANCY LASTS ABOUT TWO YEARS.

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If you thought being pregnant for nine months was a long time, be glad you're not an elephant, which can be pregnant for up to 680 days, according to the BBC. All that time in the oven has a benefit, though: Elephant calves are born with highly-developed brains, capable of learning their herd's complex social structures and ready to put their trunks to use.

7. NINETY-SIX ELEPHANTS ARE KILLED IN AFRICA EVERY DAY.

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Unfortunately, elephant poaching remains a very big problem: An estimated 35,000 elephants are killed annually, their tusks sold illegally in the ivory market. Do the math, and that comes out to nearly 96 elephants every day. Find out what you can do to help elephants and stop poaching at 96Elephants.org.

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Animals
The Real Story Behind Frida, The Rescue Dog in Mexico Gaining Viral Fame

On Tuesday, September 19, a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the center of Mexico. Three days later, rescue workers are still searching for survivors, and among the humans digging through the rubble is a four-legged helper named Frida.

Frida the rescue dog, named after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, has offered a ray of positivity to people around the world following the devastating news that’s come out of Mexico this week. As a starring member of the Mexican Navy’s Canine Unit, it’s her job to sniff out people trapped by natural disasters, all while wearing goggles, booties, and a harness to keep her safe from debris. The 7-year-old lab has detected 52 people throughout her career, 12 of whom were found alive and successfully rescued, according the Los Angeles Times.

Since the Mexican Navy shared a collage of the rescue dog last week on Twitter, Frida has been declared a hero by the internet. She’s been featured on numerous websites and was the subject of one tweet that has received more than 50,000 likes. But while Frida is doing important, life-saving work that’s every bit worthy of praise, some of the information surrounding her is inaccurate.

Several outlets have misreported that the rescue dog has saved 52 lives following Mexico's earthquake, while in reality 52 is the total number of people she has located, dead or alive.

Fortunately the viral confusion doesn’t make her story any less inspiring. Frida is an invaluable member of her team, often crawling into spaces that humans can’t reach. Like the rest of the rescue workers responding to this week’s earthquake, Frida is a hero to the victims and their loved ones.

For a closer look at how she’s able to pull off such incredible work, check her out in the canine training video below.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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