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Nothing Magic About the Grapefruit Diet

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

Originally published at

Originally published at

When proponents of a diet plan use the word “magic” to describe how the system they champion works, warning flags need to go up. The diet in question is the Grapefruit Diet. It is one of the oldest – and most imitated – fad diets in existence.

Its longevity as a quick, weight loss plan has been its best selling point to a desperate group of dieters. Unfortunately, it is also one of the unhealthiest diets in existence. In part, it's based on a dubious notion that something magical exists in a grapefruit that will help people shed pounds.

The Magical Grapefruit?

The Grapefruit Diet has been around since the 1930s. Since its inception, it has changed names several times. More recently, it was known as the Hollywood Diet and the Mayo Diet (not associated with the Mayo Clinic).

Its popularity – and longevity – was due in part to word-of-mouth, constant circulations on the Internet, a proliferation of fad diet books, and numerous lecture circuits. Oddly enough, no one has been credited for starting this plan. In many respects, this is possibly why this diet has managed to be renamed or be included in other diet plans such as the Atkins Diet.

According to WebMD’s Weight Loss Clinic writer, Dr. Kathleen Zelman, the premise of the diet was based on an alleged “magical” ingredient in the citrus fruit, that -- when ingested with protein -- would release an enzyme that causes fat burning and weight loss.

Focus on Calorie Intake


There are several versions of the diet. Food content is usually at the heart of them. It is a diet that cuts down on carbohydrates and calories (sometimes as low as 800-1000 calories per day). In most cases, the diet calls for a small variety of foods that's high in protein.

Also, dieters are encouraged, but not required, to drink black coffee and water throughout the day. Additionally, one can use high fat products such as butter and salad dressing, or prepare their foods any way they want, including being fried.

When Grapefruit Becomes the Key

Of course, through all this, grapefruit or grapefruit juice is included. Grapefruits have been found to be very nutritious. It is low in calorie (66 to 68 calories per serving), contains high fiber and vitamin C.

Also, according to a study made in 2006 and funded by the Florida Department of Citrus, the addition of a half grapefruit or four ounces of juice with meals resulted in an average weight loss of more than three pounds in 12 weeks (Zelman, 2010).

...a dramatic cut in calories will result in weight-loss. The problem with this however, is that most of what gets lost are fluids, not fat.

From this study, it appears that proponents of the Grapefruit Diet may have support for their claim. However, not one scientific study revealed that grapefruits and its magical ingredient helped with weight loss. Also, research has never found the existence or identity of that magical ingredient.

As mentioned, the secret to the program's weight loss may lie in the calorie count. The diet calls for a dramatic cut in calories. As Zelman pointed out in her article, a dramatic cut in calories will result in weight-loss. The problem with this, however, is that most of what gets lost are fluids, not fat. And, those fluids – and weight – return as soon as one finally quits the diet.

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Real Dangers

The danger in this diet is that it drastically reduces daily calories intake. Most people need 2,000 calories per day or more in order to sustain a healthy body and weight. In effect, over time, dieters on this plan can starve themselves of essential nutrients and calories. Also, the other danger is that this is a short-term weight loss program. In fact, many programs using the Grapefruit Diet, tout that their system have immediate results of 10 pounds or more in a month (One website actually states a person can lose up to 50 pounds in 2.5 months).

It does little to change the behavior and habits needed for long-term success. Instead, a short-term program leads to temporary weight-loss followed by immediate weight gain. This can lead to a yo-yo diet that can cause strain on the body's system, including the heart.

Another hazard for this diet is that some medications react with grapefruits. According to contributor, Dr. William C. Shiel Jr., grapefruit juice can directly or indirectly interact with a number of medications. He also states it blocks special enzymes in the wall of the small intestine that actually destroys many medications and prevents absorption by the body.

Final Thought

While grapefruits are nutritious, there's nothing special or magical about them. Also, the Grapefruit Diet is not that magical either. In fact, its limitation on calories and food portions might be a recipe for short-term weight loss, but it does little in the long run. In fact, it may lead to constant dieting and little or no loss of dangerous fats.


Try or Not Try

© 2016 Dean Traylor


Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on April 21, 2020:

Thank u for sharing :) Always wondered if there was any facts to the fictionism of the Grapefruit Diet. I doubted in its outrageous claims for years. Tested time and true is hormonal control (women mostly) along with a healthy balanced diet and excercise with resistance. All these fad diets usually fade after the popularity wears off.

ValKaras on April 27, 2016:

Dean - A well written and very informative hub.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 27, 2016:

Thanks for this information. Heard about the diet, but never studied the pros or cons. I'll take your word for it--not good!

ValKaras on April 27, 2016:

Dean - It's a very interesting hub you wrote. I am quite inclined to knock just about any "weight loss diet" down for the simple reason that it is not something meant to become a permanent way of eating. The weight loss hopefuls should design their plan by - let's say - reducing sugar, flour products, red meat, and dairy, and eating smaller portions at the right time of the day. Having a midnight sandwich and burdening the system with digestion at time when that energy should be used for healing and renewing - certainly doesn't make much sense.

So, grapefruit or not, nothing "magic" will happen as long as other factors are missing from the weight loss equation.

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