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What is the Scarsdale diet?

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The Scarsdale diet is a weight-loss diet invented in the 1970s. It has a strict initial 2-week phase of very low calorie dieting that is followed by a slightly less restrictive "Keep Trim" phase. The Scarsdale diet is a low-fat, high-protein diet with 43 percent of calories from protein, 22.5 percent of calories from fat, and 34.5 percent of calories from carbohydrates, says Health Magazine.

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For comparison, the Centers for Disease Control reports that the average American consumes a diet that provides approximately 15 percent of calories from protein, over 50 percent of calories from carbohydrates and approximately 32 percent of calories from fat.

The Scarsdale diet is highly restrictive. The first two weeks has a diet plan for every meal of every day that dieters are supposed to follow to the letter. During the "Keep Trim" phase the diet plans are slightly less restrictive, but choices and variety in the diet are limited, says Health Magazine.

The protein content of the Scarsdale diet is high enough to possibly trigger the condition known as "rabbit starvation" or "protein poisoning." Symptoms include nausea, weakness and diarrhea. Observations of the Inuit diet and experiments performed by early explorers suggest that diets that have 40 percent or more of the calories provided by protein can result in "rabbit starvation," says the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institute of Medicine.

The Scarsdale diet was invented by Dr. Herman Tarnower as a fast and efficient way for patients to lose weight and keep it off, says Health Magazine.

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