Diets Throughout History: The Grapefruit Groove

There are a lot of foods that are as gorgeous as they are delicious, and grapefruit is a great example. It’s juicy with a robust, tart, citrusy taste, and a slice of the ruby red variety makes for a stunning addition to anyone’s breakfast plate. 

But unfortunately for the grapefruit, it joined the ranks with cabbage, apples, and celery when it became yet another victim of fad diets.

The grapefruit diet, also known as the 18-Day diet, first made headlines in the 1930s, later coming back in the 80’s as the 10-Day, 10-Pounds-Off diet. While its true origins are foggy, one source says that an actress paid $1500 (over $25,000 today) to researchers at the head of a famous sanitarium to create a miracle diet that would help her and her fans lose a pound per day, and the grapefruit diet came from that. 

Word quickly spread about the grapefruit and its “mystical weight-loss capabilities,” as actresses began adding it to their meals in the hopes that it would help them lose weight. In turn, those who watched those actresses tried out the diet as well to achieve a “highly desired” figure. It could be said that they were the social influencers of that time, and some things never change!

Credit: By Anonymous

The basic regimen is pretty simple: Eat a grapefruit alongside low-calorie, protein-rich meals. Do this for 12 days, and you can lose as much as 10 pounds.

There are a few problems with this.

For one, this is not what healthy weight loss looks like. According to the Mayo Clinic, losing 2 pounds per week is the fastest a person should be losing weight. 10 pounds in 12 days isn’t just highly unrealistic, it can also be dangerous. Research shows that losing more than 2 pounds in a week can create risk for muscle loss, nutritional deficiencies, gallstones, and more.

For another, the fact that grapefruit specifically had to be present at meals is…odd. The low-calorie, protein-rich meals are fairly typical as far as weight-loss diets go, but grapefruit was included because there was a theory that it contained a special enzyme that would help burn fat.

There is no scientific evidence showing that this is true. Rather, if a person loses weight due to this diet, it’s far more likely that it’s because they’re eating at a calorie deficit, getting in more fiber and hydration, and eating more protein.

There are also studies showing that eating some fruit during a meal can suppress your appetite, which may have played a role in the diet’s “success,” but according to the study, it can be any fruit.

The grapefruit diet is one more example of just how detrimental fast “remedies” for weight loss are, and how influential those remedies can be. Not only can losing a lot of weight very quickly be bad for us physically, but it jeopardizes our relationship with food and reinforces a negative body image. 

At the end of the day, grapefruit may not let us shed 10 pounds overnight, but if you like it, then eat it! Grapefruit is delicious, has tons of nutrition, makes for great additions to meals and snacks, and is versatile enough to be added to all kinds of sweet and savory dishes. And that is worth a whole lot more than being a magical weight-loss cure.


[1] Hakim, B.N.A., Yahya, H.M., Shahar, S., Manaf, Z.A., Damanhuri, H. Effect of Sequence of Fruit intake in a Meal on Satiety. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019. Vol 16(22). Pg. 4464. 10.3390/ijerph16224464

[2] Calton, J.B. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010. Vol 7, pg 24. 10.1186/1550-2783-7-24

[3] Dow, C.A., Going, S.B., Chow, H.S., Patil, S, B., Thomson, C.A. The effects of daily consumption of grapefruit on body weight, lipids, and blood pressure in healthy, overweight adults. Metabolism. 2012. Vol 61(7) Pg. 1026-1035.