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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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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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