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January 12, 2017

The best diets, as ranked by US News

Daily Briefing

U.S. News & World Report has released its Best Diets of 2017, ranking the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet as Best Overall.

U.S. News' Methodology

For Best Diets 2017—the seventh year U.S. News has put out the rankings—the publication's writers and editors reviewed medical journals, government reports, and other materials to develop a selection of 38 diets. For each diet, U.S. News compiled a profile that:

  • Explains how the diet works;
  • Weighs the validity of the diet's claims;
  • Cites possible health risks; and
  • Details what life is like for a person on the diet.

U.S. News asked a panel of nationally recognized experts to review the profiles, ranking them on the following criteria:

  • Short-term weight loss, or the likelihood of losing significant weight during the first year;
  • Long-term weight loss, or the likelihood of maintaining significant weight loss for at least two years;
  • Potential to prevent diabetes or serve as a maintenance diet for diabetics;
  • Effectiveness for heart disease prevention and risk reduction in heart patients;
  • Ease of compliance;
  • Nutritional completeness; and
  • Health risks.

Once the reviews were complete, U.S. News converted experts' ratings into scores and stars, using a five-point scale. Based on those scores, U.S. News developed nine categories of Best Diet rankings:

  • Best Diets Overall;
  • Best Commercial Diets;
  • Best Weight-Loss Diets;
  • Best Diabetes Diets;
  • Best Heart-Healthy Diets;
  • Best Diets for Healthy Eating;
  • Easiest Diets to Follow;
  • Best Plant-Based Diets; and
  • Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets.

Best Overall

The top-ranking Best Overall diets include:

  • The DASH Diet, which scored 4.2 on the 5-point scale, ranking No. 1 for the 7th consecutive year. DASH emphasizes eating whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, and calls for limiting salt intake. The diet was created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to help patients reduce blood pressure.

  • The Mediterranean Diet, which scored 4.1, ranking No. 2. The diet relies on the theory that people who live in the Mediterranean live longer and have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer than Americans because of their eating habits and active lifestyle. The diet is low in sugar, red meat, and saturated fat, and high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

  • The MIND Diet, which scored 4.0, ranking No. 3. The diet, short for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, incorporates elements of both of the higher-ranked diets. According to U.S. News, MIND focuses on 10 "brain-healthy food groups," putting an emphasis on leafy greens.

  • The Flexitarian Diet, which scored 3.9, tying with three others for No. 4. The Flexitarian Diet aims to promote weight loss and optimal health by having people eat mostly—but not completely—vegetarian. Research suggests that people with such diets live an average of 3.6 years longer than those who eat more meat.

  • The Mayo Clinic Diet, which also scored 3.9. On the Mayo Clinic Diet, people follow a unique food pyramid that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • The TLC Diet, the third diet that scored 3.9. The diet—short for the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes—is aimed at cholesterol reduction. It focuses on significantly reducing intake of fat, with a focus on saturated fat in particular.

  • The Weight Watchers Diet, the fourth diet that scored 3.9. The Weight Watchers Diet recently underwent significant changes, according to U.S. News. The Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale Program, which launched at the end of 2015, aims to help people eat better, exercise more, and change their mindset. A cornerstone of the program is its support meetings.

Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition for Washington University in St. Louis, said, "This year's list of diets reflects the long-standing body of evidence that shows weight loss, a true change in body fat levels, is achieved though changes in lifestyle behaviors including food choices, portions, and activity."

Top diets across categories

Several of the Best Overall diets, including the Mayo Clinic diet, earned top spots in other categories as well. Among the other Best Diet sets, the No. 1 diets were:

  • Weight Watchers, as Best Weight-Loss Diet;
  • The HMR Program and Weight Watchers, tied, as Best Fast Weight-Loss Diet;
  • Mayo Clinic and Weight Watchers, tied, as Best Commercial Diet Plan;
  • DASH as Best Diabetes Diet;
  • DASH as Best Diet for Healthy Eating;
  • DASH and the Ornish Diet, tied, as Best Heart-Healthy Diet;
  • The Mediterranean Diet as Best Plant-Based Diet; and
  • The Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, MIND, and the Fertility Diet, tied, as Easiest Diet to Follow.

Donald Hensrud—medical editor of "The Mayo Clinic Diet" and director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program—in a statement said, "We are honored to be recognized for a weight-loss method that offers lasting results."

He added, "With two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese, we know that managing a healthy weight can be challenging, but when people see results quickly, they feel empowered to continue on their journey to a healthier weight" ("Best Diets," U.S. News & World Report, accessed 1/10; U.S. News & World Report, 1/4; Mayo clinic release, 1/4; Doheny,WebMD, 1/4; U.S. News & World Report release, 1/4; "Best Diets Overall," U.S. News & World Report, accessed 1/10; DASH Diet profile, accessed 1/10; Mediterranean Diet profile, accessed 1/10; MIND Diet profile, accessed 1/10; Flexitarian Diet profile, accessed 1/10; Mayo Clinic Diet profile, accessed 1/10; TLC Diet profile, accessed 1/10; Weight Watchers Diet profile, accessed 1/10).

Key insights on medical weight loss programs

 Key insights on medical weight loss programs

As obesity and its related comorbidities remain top concerns nationwide, many hospitals are considering how to enhance their services to this patient group. Understanding that weight loss demands a comprehensive approach to care, many hospitals have launched non-surgical weight loss programs to support those patients who are not candidates for surgery.

These weight management programs vary greatly in their organization, program offerings, patient referral patterns, payment structure, and marketing strategies, though all aim to help patients lose excess weight. This brief profiles three non-surgical weight loss programs at community and teaching hospitals to identify the variety of services available.

Download the brief

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