By Patricia Salber

Pareja by Fernando Botero

Right now we are in the “Pile on the Pounds” season, but before you know it, it will be January 1 and we will all be resolving to diet away the turkey-stuffing-champagne-and-ice cream contributions to our physique.  So, what diet should you follow?  Weight Watchers?  Jenny Craig?  Atkins?  Which ones work the best?

A featured article in US News and World Report’s Best Hospitals, 2012 Edition, provides us some guidance.  According to an article by Angela Haupt and Kurtis Hiatt, a US News team spent six months researching the diet literature, including medical and governmental reports.  They provided the data to a panel of 22 experts in diet, nutrition and diabetes who then ranked the diets from 1 to 5 with 5 being the top score.  There were individual scores for each of the following categories:

  • Short-term weight loss
  • Long-term weight loss
  • Diets good for diabetes
  • Diets good for heart health
  • Nutrition
  • Safety

The scores in each category were averaged to come up with an overall score.  The article presented multiple versions of the rankings, including best overall, best for heart health, best diabetes diets and best commercial diets.  But most of the focus in the article was how well the diets worked to shed the pounds.

Here are the “Top Ten” diets ranked by the average score for short- and long-term weight loss

1.  Weight Watchers weighed in with a score of 3.8 out of 5.

2.  Jenny Craig tied with Raw Food Diet (3.5/5)

4.  Volumetrics Diet (3.4/5)

5.  Slim-Fast Diet tied with Vegan Diet (3.3/5)

7.  Atkins diet (3.2)

8.  DASH diet tied with Eco-Atkins diet and Mayo Clinic Diet (3.1)

There are several take-aways from this article.  First, there is no perfect diet for weight loss.  The best is about a “B” or 3.8 our of 5.  Second the “best diets” are all clustered pretty close together in terms of score.  There really isn’t that much difference between a 3.1 and a 3.8.  Finally, there does seem to be a big difference between diets depending on what you want in a diet (good nutrition vs safety vs heart health, etc.).

Diet Over-all Short-Term Weight Loss Long Term Weigh Loss Nutrition Safe For Diab-etes For Heart Health
#1 DASH Diet 3.9 3.2 3.0 4.7 4.9 3.6 4.3
#2 Mediterranean Diet 3.8 3.0 2.9 4.4 4.8 3.4 4.0
#2 TLC Diet 3.8 3.2 2.8 4.6 4.8 3.2 4.5
#2 Weight Watchers 3.8 4.0 3.5 4.1 4.6 3.1 3.4
#5 Mayo Clinic Diet 3.7 3.3 2.9 4.3 4.7 3.5 3.6
#5 Volumetrics 3.7 3.6 3.2 4.2 4.6 3.4 3.5
#7 Jenny Craig 3.6 3.8 3.2 4.0 4.4 3.0 3.2
#8 Ornish Diet 3.5 3.1 2.8 3.8 4.2 3.5 4.6
#9 Vegetarian 3.4 2.9 2.9 3.7 4.2 3.4 3.6
#10 Slim-Fast 3.2 3.4 3.2 3.4 3.6 3.2 2.8
#11 Nutrisystem 3.1 3.2 2.3 3.7 4.0 2.7 2.4
#12 Vegan Diet 3.0 3.4 3.3 2.8 3.0 3.5 3.9
#13 South Beach Diet 2.9 3.7 2.3 3.2 3.4 2.5 2.9
#14 Eco-Atkins 2.8 3.8 2.5 2.8 3.3 2.5 3.3
#14 Zone Diet 2.8 3.0 2.3 3.2 3.7 2.3 2.8
#16 Glycemic-Index Diet 2.7 2.8 2.2 3.1 3.8 2.7 2.3
#16 Medifast 2.7 3.5 2.0 3.1 3.0 2.6 2.7
#18 Raw Food Diet 2.4 3.7 3.3 2.1 2.1 2.6 2.8
#19 Atkins 2.3 4.0 2.5 1.7 2.2 2.4 2.0
#20 Paleo Diet 2.0 2.1 1.7 2.0 2.3 2.1 2.0

 

All of the diets require that you do one thing well – follow the diet to limit caloric intake below your daily requirement to maintain weight. It’s the usual advice:  eat less calories and lose more.

So, enjoy the next couple of months in indulgent holiday mode and then pick a diet, any diet on the list, and follow it as best you can.