The Grapefruit Diet

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The Grapefruit Diet: Starve Your Body, Save a Citrus Grower

Oct 11, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Usually works for short term weight-loss

Cons:Doesn't stay off, some versions actually dangerous, grapefruit just isn't a magical fruit

Every dieter, at one point or another, has been told to consume grapefruit. For some reason, grapefruit is believed by some to contain magical “fat burning” properties. The Grapefruit Diet takes this belief to a new high (or low, if you’re a nutritionist) with an entire diet based around – you guessed it – grapefruit. Even better, the diet promises that you’ll lose 50 pounds in 2-1/2 months, and you get to eat as much as you want!

Now, I happen to like grapefruit. Give me a nice fresh plump Ruby Red grapefruit for breakfast, and I’m happy. I’m even happier if someone else dissects all the little segments for me (my mother-in-law, bless her heart, solved this problem for us by buying a set of “grapefruit spoons” with little serrated tips). But I digress.

In any case, at one point in my life, I got the Grapefruit Diet by fax and figured I’d give it a shot. If I recall correctly, this was just before my high school reunion and I wanted to look nice & fit. I’d tried the cabbage soup diet (aka the lots-of-gas-don’t-ever-make-me-eat-that-soup-again diet) and just couldn’t face it again. So I gave the Grapefruit Diet a try.

The Grapefruit Diet Basics
This diet is laid out as a one-week diet, and includes consuming two servings of grapefruit (or grapefruit juice) per day. Although the diet that is laid out on the Florida Citrus Grower’s website is set for about 1200 calories, the “faxed” (and emailed) versions call for consumption of far fewer calories – about 800 per day, if my recollection is correct. If you are doing the “Hollywood Grapefruit Diet” (ordering the juice) in the mail, you’ll get even less (about 400 calories a day). There is another version in which you get to eat as much as you want of specific foods, with minimal carbohydrates though except what you get from the grapefruit. It’s somewhat like the Atkins diet, or the food-combination diet, plus grapefruit.

In the Eat-All-You-Can version of this diet (which was not the one I tried) you get 2 eggs and bacon for breakfast, plus coffee and grapefruit. Lunch is grapefruit, salad and meat. Dinner is grapefruit, meat, vegetable and salad, plus coffee. Your nighttime snack is tomato juice or milk.

In the regular version, with the flexible menus, you still get grapefruit at every meal but the choices are a little more diverse. There’s a seven-day plan you follow, with some allowed flexibility. For example, on the first day breakfast is cereal, grapefruit, milk and coffee. Lunch is a whole wheat/tomato/deli meat sandwich, yogurt, and diet soda. Your snack is (of course) grapefruit. Dinner is rice, steamed broccoli, baked chicken with Parmesan cheese. Your snack is two tangerines and sugar free Jell-O. Total intake? About 1200 calories.

This is the approximate diet I followed, although the faxed version that I had gave you even less calories (about 800–900 per day). It was a seven-day diet, and included grapefruit (or grapefruit juice) for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a small but relatively healthy diet, as well.

Finally, there is the Hollywood Grapefruit Juice diet. This is the one that I see advertised in the back of SHAPE and FITNESS every month, as well as on occasional circulars in my Sunday paper. For a mere $29.95 (plus shipping and handling) you get a 32 oz. bottle of grapefruit juice and a bottle of fat metabolizers. You are supposed to mix the juice with water, and drink onlythe juice for 2 days. Of course you lose weight – your body is, quite literally, starving, on the 400 calories a day you’re getting. You’ll be hungry and probably irritable, and quite possible disoriented and dizzy if you try to stay on this for two days… and of course you’ll gain it all back as soon as you quit since your metabolism has slowed to a crawl.

My Experience (as in, Yeah, Yeah, but did it work?)
Well, I lost about three pounds on this diet in a week. Since I only wanted to lose about five pounds for my reunion, this was fine – I was able to happily zip up my dress for the party. However, I’m not sure how much the grapefruit helped my progress, and I will say that I regained all three pounds that same weekend that I went to the reunion. This was, no doubt, the result of a combination of over-eating and a slowed metabolism.

I do recall that about day three I was sick of grapefruit. Day four I started a chant “It’s only for a week, it’s only for a week. You can do anything for a week”. This became my mantra as I slugged through the rest of the week, eating my way through a full case of grapefruit. Luckily I had picked up a beautiful box of Ruby Red’s at Costco; however, even these started to turn my stomach by day six or so. By day seven I was almost literally having to choke down the grapefruit, and had resorted to buying grapefruit juice, and swigging it down as quickly as possible.

The newer version of this diet is slightly healthier, encouraging you to eat no less than 1200 calories per day. This would prevent the starvation and dehydration effect that I experienced, and hopefully would be a more sensible approach to long-term weight loss. However, the eat-all-you-want version looks dangerous to me. Unlike the Atkins diet which has years of scientific backing behind it (please see my Atkins Review at http://www.epinions.com/well-review-3786-C6C3DEC-394ABE4A-prod5) the grapefruit diet – the “eat all you want” one – has no science to it at all, and no credible doctor that I can imagine would back this one. Even some of the basic tenets that do make the Atkins diet safe (for most people) are broken here.

Is There Any Science At ALL to this?
I scoured the web for scientific validity to this diet. I truly wanted to believe that grapefruit possessed some magical properties which would make my hours at the gym each week superfluous. Wouldn’t that be great? Just consume a grapefruit, or a magical grapefruit pill, and I can skip the hour of sweating and pounding that I put my body through!

Alas, I had no such luck. I found reference to a study that the Florida Citrus Growers sponsored (yeah, no bias there) with 45 individuals with a BMI of 30 (termed “obese”). Each patient was put on a low calorie, low fat diet for 13 weeks, including grapefruit intake and weekly weight loss meetings. Each participant lost 19 pound in this time frame … which, nutritionally, makes perfect sense for an obese person on a low calorie diet, regardless of whether grapefruit was included or not.

I also found reference to the contribution of grapefruit pectin (rinds) in reducing serum cholesterol. Sounds great, if you’re a grapefruit-rind fan. If not, you would need to order one of the grapefruit tablets (I found them at Headstartvitamins.com -- 60 for $9.95; unfortunately, you are supposed to take 4 a day so that’s only a 15 day supply). Nonetheless, it sure beats eating grapefruit rind, if you’re after the cholesterol reducing effects. Beware, though, that this same vitamin company touts the 800-calorie a day grapefruit diet, which I denounced as incredibly unhealthy above.

My Recommendation
The only real proponents of this diet, as far as I know, are the manufacturers of grapefruit tablets, and the Florida Citrus Growers Association. In fact, the latter group has an entire webpage devoted to this diet. No surprise there, they have to love the recent renewal of interest in this diet!

There are several “diet debunker” sites that I would encourage you to visit as well, which give you the skinny (pun intended) on the health aspects of this diet. Their bottom line more or less coincides with mine – you may drop a few pounds, but they’ll come right back. In addition, your metabolism will probably be slowed significantly due to the low-calorie intake. And nutritionally, you have starved your body of some other key nutrients in the meantime.

My advice is to steer clear of the eat-all-you-want diet. It’s dangerous, and doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if it works, but it’s a food-combination diet without being specific about which foods you are to combine. Intuitively, that just doesn’t make sense to me from either a chemical or nutritional standpoint. The Hollywood Juice Diet is worse than bad, it’s outright dangerous. Some people fast once a month, and if you want to do a juice fast to detoxify, with your doctor’s blessing, that’s your choice. As a long-term weight-loss technique, though, this one is beyond bunk… and it has to be the world’s most expensive juice concentrate, as well!

Regarding the Revised Grapefruit Diet (as posted on the Florida Citrus Grower’s Diet) – well, it’s a number of steps up from the one I tried. I honestly can’t advocate this diet at all, since my experience was that I lost a few pounds but quickly regained them. On the other hand, the 1200 calorie diet is far better than the one you’ll no doubt get on email or fax from your friend or relative (the email version has about 800 calories a day). Any diet at all that puts you into a starvation mode with extremely limited caloric intake is going to make you lose weight, and the grapefruit has no bearing on that. It’s unhealthy to eat at this low of a caloric intake, and while you may lose a couple pounds, the moment you go off of the diet you are going to regain the weight. Why? Because you haven’t truly changed your eating habits, and the crash-diet told your body you were starving, so it slowed down its metabolism. These two factors combine to add up to a long-term weight gain, not loss, overall.

If you want to give the 1200-calorie diet a shot, by all means do so. Take a multi-vitamin, and talk to your doctor first. My personal advice would be to substitute an apple here, a banana or orange there for the grapefruit, though. Grapefruit is healthy, and low-calorie, but it doesn’t honestly possess any magical properties. If it did, they could sell grapefruit for about $30 a piece. The fact is, that as part of any diet, grapefruit adds a nice healthy fruit addition with minimal caloric intake – as do apples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes and most other fruits. The 1200-calorie diet is a nice general diet that may help someone who is struggling to learn how to control their portions and eat regularly, and needs a regimented diet to guide them. The grapefruit are simply a part of this diet, not the key to it, in my opinion.


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Amy’s Research & Referral Resources:
Anyone who’s read my stuff before knows that I like to share my research resources at the end of my reviews, so you can look up more information if you want. As a bonus, I’m including a link to an amusing song on this subject, as well. Enjoy!

• Weird Al Yankovich actually sang a hysterical song about this diet, in a parody of Zoot Suit Riot. I won’t reproduce the entire song, but the chorus went (and my sincere apologies to anyone this offends – please skip this part if you wish):

Grapefruit Diet (Diet!)
Lay off the 3 Musketeers
Grapefruit Diet (Diet!)
Until my big booty disappears
Grapefruit Diet (Diet!)
Eat 'em till they're comin' out of my ears
Grapefruit Diet (Diet!)
'Cause I haven't seen my feet in years


(For the full lyrics, please see http://lyrics.astraweb.com/display.cgi?weird_al_yankovich%2E%2Erunning_with_scissors%2E%2Egrapefruit_diet)

Research Resources:

http://www.floridajuice.com/floridacitrus/diet.html
http://www.phys.com/b_nutrition/02solutions/diet_debunker/grapefruit.html
http://www.sw.org/news/options/apr98/gf_diet.htm
http://homearts.com/gh/health/07nutrb3.htm
http://www.gnc.com/wellness/natpharm/Drug/Combo/Diadex_Grapefruit_Diet-F.htm
http://www.headstartvitamins.com/Page9.html
http://www.infoiway.com/html/health/DIET4.SHTML
http://www.sickbay.com/patients/today/products/hollywood.html




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