LOS ANGELES - Judy Mazel, author of "The Beverly Hills Diet," a 1981 bestseller that helped jump-start the age of the diet book even though its pineapple-heavy regimen was dismissed as nonsense by mainstream nutritionists, has died. She was 63.
Ms. Mazel, a longtime resident of Pacific Palisades, died Oct. 12 of complications from peripheral vascular disease at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Victoria Marechal, a friend.
Although she had no formal training in medicine or nutrition, Ms. Mazel became interested in weight loss while recuperating from a broken leg and reading books on nutrition. After studying for several months with a Santa Fe nutritionist, Ms. Mazel came up with a theory about food enzymes and the digestive system that she formulated into a complicated weight-reducing plan.
"The Beverly Hills Diet" is based on a concept of eating one type of food at a time, as did our prehistoric ancestors. It avoids combining carbohydrates and proteins in a meal and pushes fruit exclusively for the first 10 days.
Ms. Mazel tested her dietary theory on herself and claimed to lose 72 pounds. She had remained a "svelte 108" since, according to her website.
The book, written while the self-styled diet counselor practiced in a Beverly Hills clinic, was a runaway bestseller. The book's jacket included endorsements from Linda Gray of TV's "Dallas," singer Engelbert Humperdinck, and actress Sally Kellerman, and the author become somewhat of a celebrity as a frequent guest on TV talk shows.
When Maria Shriver, the wife of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, was asked how she lost 25 pounds while trying to break into television, she told People magazine in 2005: "I couldn't get a job, so I went on the Beverly Hills Diet, where you ate watermelon one day and cheesecake the next. It worked. That was the last diet I ever went on."
Medical specialists took issue with "major misstatements of scientific fact," derided the book as a work of fiction, and said the diet preyed on humankind's age-old desire for a quick fix. Diet followers took off pounds because the program was low in calories, specialists said.
"Not only is there no scientific evidence to support this diet plan, but it also contradicts established medical knowledge about nutrition," a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded in 1981.
Ms. Mazel said she didn't create the book for the scientific community.
"I wrote the book so that the 'yous' and 'I's' of the world can understand the process the body goes through" in digesting food, Ms. Mazel told the Los Angeles Times in 1982.
A former secretary, Ms. Mazel was born in Chicago in 1943, moved to Los Angeles to break into acting, but had little success and struggled to keep off weight. In 1981, she told Newsweek she was inspired to become a diet counselor in 1974 when a disembodied voice told her to leave the freeway and buy cashews, a trip that led her to a health food store and a book on food combinations.
Ms. Mazel leaves her sisters, Carol Friduss of Chicago and Ann Manaster of San Diego.