One Way

Does Best Diet Mean Anything Anymore?

Earlier this week, a court ruling told us that the word diet doesn’t really mean much. Now the U.S. News report on best diets reminds that best doesn’t mean all that much, either. You might have thought that being best was a singular accomplishment. After all, Merriam Webster defines best as something that is better than all the others. But it turns out that we have – according to U.S. News – five best diets.

Five First Place Finishers

The Mediterranean diet is best overall, best for diabetes, tied for best in healthy eating, best for being plant based, and best for being easy to follow. These are impressive and well-deserved accolades for a diet that has good evidence for its health benefits.

But that still leaves plenty of room for others. Weight Watchers is best for weight loss and best among the commercial diets. HMR is is the best for fast weight loss. The DASH diet managed a tie for first place among diets for healthy eating. And then finally, Ornish claims the title for the best heart-healthy diet.

We’ll forgive you if you think that all these best diet honors sound like participation trophies. You might be right. Our inbox is full of press releases from commercial interests touting their performance in the annual best diet derby. Plenty of winners to keep everyone happy.

As a side note, the enthusiastic fan base of the the keto diet will not be happy with this list. Keto’s best showing was a four-way tie for third place in the fast weight loss category. In the overall ranking, it landed only one spot away from last place. Ouch.

Why Best Really Is Meaningless for Diets

We’ve said it before. One-size-fits-all nutrition is dead. There is no one best way to eat. Human nutrition and the significance of food in our lives is simply way too complex for that. Even the idea that science can deliver a singular best diet for an individual hasn’t yet panned out. Lots of people are working on it. But so far, no joy.

So please, take all the diet hype of this new year with a grain of salt. The best diet is the one that brings you joy and good health. If you need help finding that, work with a skilled RDN.

Click here for the U.S. News rankings, here for further perspective, and here for tips on finding what’s best for you.

One Way, photograph © Aftab Uzzaman / flickr

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January 3, 2020

One Response to “Does Best Diet Mean Anything Anymore?”

  1. January 03, 2020 at 10:10 am, David Brown said:

    Characteristic of every successful dietary approach is a reduction in polyunsaturated fat and fructose consumption toward that range of intakes that allows the body to successfully regulate energy release and fat accretion.

    Within the normal (ancestral) range of intakes of fructose and polyunsaturated fats, insulin release, free radical formation, and prostanoid signaling are well regulated. When the food supply started to become industrialized toward the middle of the 19th century, it became easy to routinely consume large amounts of fructose.

    In the first decades of the 20th Century, omega-6 linoleic acid-rich culinary fats began to replace traditional fats rich in saturated fat. At the same time, industrial activity released huge amounts of heavy metals into the environment. Both of these developments contributed to the dramatic increase in heart attack mortality. High linoleic acid intake promoted formation of oxidized cholesterol and heavy metal toxicity made plaques unstable.

    During the second half of the 20th Century, concerns about heavy metal toxicity prompted public health authorities to advise governments to form environmental protection agencies. Pollution abatement reduced the amount of heavy metals in air and food. The result was a dramatic decline in sudden heart attack deaths which public health authorities attributed to reduced intake of saturated fats.

    Meanwhile, livestock production shifted from pasture to concentrated animal feeding operations. At this juncture, an estimated 97% of the animal products consumed by pets and humans is derived from livestock fed up on cereals. Consequently, the arachidonic acid content of animal products is far higher than it used to be. So, humans and their pets have a problem with fat accretion.