Weight Loss by the Book A brief literary history of diet fads.
By Steven Finch

(Business 2.0) – The best-seller lists have been useful road maps to the diet industry's ever-shifting ideas since 1922, when Lulu Hunt Peters's Diet and Health hit the charts and stayed there for five years (it recommended a Gandhi-like regimen of 1,200 calories a day). Here's a look at more recent diet books that generated big buzz--and big business opportunities. --STEVEN FINCH

AUTHOR: Robert C. Atkins PUBLISHED: 1972 SALES: Some 16 million; other Atkins books push his total to more than 21 million. BIG IDEA: Radically cut carbohydrates, like bread and pasta. Bring on the protein and fat. Bacon and eggs are good for you.

AUTHOR: Nathan Pritikin PUBLISHED: 1979 SALES: Combined with other books, including a 1999 follow-up by son Robert, 3 million. BIG IDEA: Stay away from fat and cholesterol. Pasta's fine, but go easy on the olive oil and guacamole.

AUTHOR: Dean Ornish PUBLISHED: 1990 SALES: More than 10 million; other titles boost Ornish's book sales to more than 25 million. BIG IDEA: An ultra-low-fat vegetarian diet can help repair damaged heart tissue.

AUTHOR: Barry Sears PUBLISHED: 1995 SALES: Combined with other titles, more than 4 million. BIG IDEA: Emphasizes a balance of protein, fat, and so-called favorable carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, and veggies. Limit the bagels, pasta, and rice.

AUTHOR: H. Leighton Steward PUBLISHED: 1998 SALES: Combined with other titles, 2.5 million. BIG IDEA: Pull the sweet tooth, and forgo nearly all processed foods--as well as some unlikely sugar-heavy suspects such as carrots and corn.