Best Diets: Winners, Losers, and Marathon Performers

In the midst of this unfortunate season of diets, U.S. News is out with its Best Diets report. Within it, you can find some sanity without looking too hard. But the report also has enough detail so you can find your way to a fad or two if you try hard enough. Please don’t.

Marathon performers sit firmly at the top of the list: the Dash diet and the Mediterranean diet have been occupying the top of this list since these rankings first emerged in 2011. Both of these diets are really foundations for a lifetime of healthy eating. Both have a strong evidence base for health outcomes. Likewise, the MIND diet comes in third on the list with a strong evidence base for cutting the risks of declines in brain function.

Winners might not be at the very top of the list, but they performed well in segments they served. The venerable Weight Watchers plan came in at number four overall, tied with three other diet plans. It’s the top-scoring commercial plan with comprehensive support beyond a simple diet book. It tied with the HMR Program for rapid weight loss. The HMR Program is best known as an evidence-based meal replacement plan that can be a very helpful initial phase for a long term healthy eating plan.

Losers notably include the Paleo diet and the Atkins diet. The Paleo diet has a few boosters left, but it came out near the bottom of the list at number 36 in a field of 38 diet plans. In the face of concerns about the environmental impact of meat production, the Paleo fad has wilted. Despite proving a point about flaws in low-fat everything advice of the 1980s, the low-carb extreme of Atkins seems headed for extinction at number 35 on the list.

Despite the marketing hoopla surrounding this Best Diets report, it’s really quite a solid body of work. Commendably, they mostly eschew fads and rely on real experts in diet, nutrition, and obesity.

Read here and you might find some useful insight.

Victory, detail from Giordano’s Slaying of Medusa, photograph © Thomas Hawk / flickr

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January 5, 2017