In what’s become a seasonal rite almost as reliable as the solstice, US News and World Report has issued its own ranks of diets to coincide with the turn of the calendar.  Once again, I was blessed to serve as one of those judges.

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Our approaches were much as they’ve been in years past.  Editors at USNWR select the diets for people to score, based mostly on their prevalence and popularity.  The intent isn’t to make this a diet popularity competition, per se, but rather to admit the diets of interest to readers will be the ones many individuals are on, have tried, or are thinking about.

For every diet, each of us receives a normally quite excellent review of the fundamentals and relevant scientific proof.  We’re invited, and encouraged, to draw from our own understanding of the related evidence, or to critique the literature as warranted to inform our conclusions.

Those decisions are subsequently expressed numerically, with a 5-point ordinal scale, across a variety of classes pertaining to soundness, security, efficacy for various health conditions, and ease of maintenance.  Each of us 25 judges fills our rating sheets independently, and anonymously; none of us understands what others have determined, and we don’t confer with one another.  Contrary to a jury, this procedure entails 25 completely independent verdicts.

The numerical scores are aggregated and averaged by USNWR, and the rankings are created accordingly.  As that methodology implies, every estimate exerts only a small (approximately 4 percent ) influence on the results, and the outcomes can occasionally vary markedly from what any one of us favors or considers.  In my opinion, USNWR does a decent job of recruiting judges with varied experience, and consequently producing an average decision born of hybrid vigor.

With this year’s ranks, more diets have been added to the roster, bringing the total up to 40.  The long-popular diets from years ago were kept, together with the additions of these diets which have captured the public imagination, for any reason.  Notable among the season was the ketogenic diet.

The outcome, in my standpoint, affirm the proposition that the basic truths of diet are extremely stable with time, quite straightforward, abundantly clear to all real experts, and have a tendency to enjoy the acceptance of multidisciplinary consensus on the grounds of both science, and sense.  Accordingly, each the best scoring diets highlight the fundamentals none has summarized better than Michael Pollan: real food, not too far, mainly plants.  The overall “winners,” the DASH diet developed by the NIH initially to fight hypertension; and the Mediterranean diet, are about healthy foods, mostly plants, in balanced and sensible mixes.  All these diets, followed with the”flexitarian” diet, won top honors since they’re sound, well researched, and usually considered relatively simple to embrace and sustain.

What about the ketogenic diet, now basking in its 15 minutes of public adulation?  It ranked last.

Even though for the most part the results lineup with both sense and science, there are some important constraints to both what we may call”the trial” of diets, as well as the verdicts.  The pros are, clearly, people like everybody else, and we, also, might be affected by what’s now in vogue.  The Mediterranean diet isn’t any better for individuals this year than last, and is not likely to be better for health than, say, a traditional Okinawan diet; but it’s been much in the news, and also at the scientific literature of late.  I guess concentrated focus by the public can help determine the inclinations of their judges.

I believe that the imprimatur of a diet can do exactly the same.  The DASH diet has always done well in such rankings both since it’s a really sensible dietary plan, and because it’s a product of the NIH, with all the resources and validity attached.

Finally, I guess there’s a little bit of neophilia- love of the new- in work here, also.  The Ornish diet, for example, is equally as great for heart disease change this year as past, nevertheless moved down in the number 1 to the number 2 spot for heart health, for no specific reason aside from the present preoccupation with the DASH and Mediterranean diets.

In terms of the”trial,” its constraints in my opinion are much as they’ve always been.  To begin with we judges do not have to determine what diets to score.  Secondly, some very significant parameters have been omitted from the scoring.  I’ve long maintained, for example, that individuals “diet” alone, but live it together families, and for that reason, “dieting” which isn’t family-friendly should just die!  We ought to be centered on eating nicely in a sustainable manner with the power of unity at the level of household and family.  The USNWR score sheets don’t inquire about suitability for many members of a family, kids and adults alike, and that I believe that they should.

Another affordable quibble with our approaches is the idea that one diet is best for diabetes, another best for cardiovascular health, yet another best for weight reduction.  In my opinion, that is not true, and thank goodness!  Many people with type 2 diabetes are obese, and so require a dietary plan that may address diabetes and weight equally.  Diabetes markedly raises risk of cardiovascular disease, so they want a diet that’s excellent for heart health, too.  What is such a person to do- go on three diets concurrently?  Certainly not.  A diet that’s excellent for wellbeing is, generally speaking, perfect for all of wellbeing.  Condition-specific strategies to diet don’t demand more than just delicate, fine tuning of an overall approach that’s just plain great for all sections of all people.

Possibly the single biggest limitation for this exercise is that the implication that basic conclusions about diet and health have some reason to change with the turn of the calendar; they do not.  The fundamental truths about diet and health are bolstered and refined with contemporary science, of course, but have stood the test of time and therefore are steady not only year to year, but generation to generation.  Diets of healthy, whole foods, mostly (or exclusively) plants in balanced and sensible mixtures are best this year; were greatest last year; and also will be greatest next year.

May you daily diet – or even better, live it this year, accordingly.

 

Author: David L. Katz