The Best And Worst Diets of 2020

January 17, 2021

Millions of people set health-related New Year’s resolutions every year, so what better time to research the best and worst diets of the year?

U.S. News & World Report conveniently posted their annual ranking of the most popular diets in the new year for a day or so, and it’s a seriously useful tool for anyone confused about which highly exaggerated diets are right for them – and which to stay away from.

This year, the Mediterranean diet was crowned the winner for the third year in a row, followed by the DASH, Flexitarian, and WW (diets formally known as the Weight Watchers) diets. One of the most popular diets of the past decade, keto, was one of the biggest losers this year, coming in second to last, just ahead of the Dukan diet.

No surprise. The best overall diet is the Mediterranean diet.
Rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains, and boasting plenty of scientifically backed health benefits, the Mediterranean diet is this year’s big winner because it’s ” wise “.

“The hallmarks of a ‘best’ diet include balance, maintainability, palatability, family friendliness, sustainability, and healthfulness,” explains David Katz, M.D., founding director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and one of the 25 judges on the panel of “U.S. News & World Report.” The Mediterranean diet was checkmarked in all of those boxes,” he said in a press release.

In addition, Health’s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, RD, noted that one of the main criteria used to rank the diets was research – the Mediterranean diet has been historically proven to be beneficial and “has long been a gold standard” with proven results for both weight management and health outcomes.” Because the Mediterranean diet has long been a way of life in that part of the world, we have a lot of data on its impact on weight management and chronic disease risk,” she explains.

The diet also took the top spot in four other categories, best healthy diet, easiest diet to follow, best diet for diabetes, and best plant-based diet.

However, if your goal is to lose weight fast, the Mediterranean diet may not get you there. It received the lowest score in the Best Fast Weight Loss Diet.

The Mediterranean-inspired DASH diet (which stands for Diets to Stop High Blood Pressure), designed to help lower blood pressure, can do the same for cholesterol and blood pressure, while the Flexitarian diet, a flexible plant-based “mostly vegetarian” diet, tied for second.

The WW, formally known as the Weight Watchers diet, took fourth place, (which Sass says may have something to do with the number of studies supporting its ability to help people successfully lose weight) while fifth place was a three-way tie between the Mayo Clinic diet, MIND and Volumetrics.

Sass was surprised that more plant-based diets – such as vegetarian and vegan – didn’t make the top five, “because research supports their ability to regulate weight and reduce disease risk,” she explained.” However, I think the research is what made the flexitarian diet, which is essentially a semi-vegetarian diet, rank so high.”

According to Angela Haupt, health editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, sustainability played a huge role in choosing the winners.

“We’re interested in diets that have proven lasting value – not fad diets that are here today and gone tomorrow,” she said in a press release.” Well-performing diets are safe, sensible, and backed by sound science. It will be consistent year after year.”

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One of the worst diets of the year (and the biggest surprise): the keto diet.
Yes, this high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, which has amassed a cult following thanks to its promise of rapid weight loss, ranks in the bottom two, with experts noting concerns about its emphasis on fat-rich foods.

“This diet is fundamentally at odds with everything we know about long-term health,” one expert noted. They also note that it has “minimal effectiveness” in preventing diabetes and promoting heart health, that there’s not enough evidence to support long-term weight loss, (“It hasn’t been used for weight management long enough to build a strong track record of helping people lose weight and keep it off over time,” says Sass) isn’t very nutritious, and is difficult to follow.” Following this diet for the long term is the most difficult part of this weight loss program,” says one expert.” People get very bored just eating fat and fats and meat.” Another went so far as to describe it as “the hardest of the extremely difficult!”

In addition to being difficult to maintain, Sass added that keto has the potential to cause negative health outcomes, including nutrient deficiencies and altering the gut microbiome in ways that may increase inflammation and affect immune and mental health.

The only category in which keto performed fairly well was the best fast weight loss diet, which tied for third place.

Other diets that ranked lower included the Dukan Diet, Whole30, Atkins and the Raw Food diet.” The number one thing the five diets at the bottom of the list have in common is a lack of research, both regarding weight loss results and health effects,” notes Sass.

How to choose the right diet for you based on this list.

While the list ranks all diets from best to worst, Haupt notes that the goal of the list is for people to take this information and use it to choose the right diet for them.

“Whether you’re trying to lose weight or improve your heart health, diet isn’t the end-all-be-all,” explains Haupt.” The Best Diets 2020 rankings provide consumers with the information and data they need to make informed decisions and help them – along with the advice of their doctor or other health care professional – choose the plan that’s best for them.”

Sass recommends creating your own healthy eating plan and using the guide to educate yourself about nutrition.” The best diet for you may not be a diet at all, but rather drawing on the principles of various plans to create a strategy that allows you to lose weight and feel good physically, emotionally and socially at the same time,” she says.” This strategy should also have the ability to become a long-term lifestyle, rather than something you yo-yo ‘up’ and ‘down’.” Most importantly, it should actually protect or improve your health.

“If any diet doesn’t check all those boxes, it may go away and leave you back where you started. Or you might achieve weight loss at the expense of your physical or mental health, which isn’t worth it and isn’t sustainable,” she says.

Before you commit to any plan, Sass urges asking yourself if it you could conceivably still follow it for six months or a year down the road, or how you might need to modify it to make it more feasible and sustainable for you.” One thing we know about healthy weight loss and weight maintenance is that consistency is key,” she notes.” For long-term success and optimal health, adopt a new way of eating healthy, not a short-term ‘diet’, whatever is fad or trendy.”

How the rankings were calculated.
To determine the rankings, U.S. News & World Report assembled a panel of 25 of the country’s top nutritionists, diet consultants and physicians specializing in diabetes, heart health and weight loss. Each expert completed an in-depth survey that scored 35 diets in seven categories, including ease of adherence, likelihood of significant weight loss in the short and long term, and effectiveness against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“The basic principles of a sustainable, healthy diet don’t change from year to year, but the methods used to achieve the goal, the range of variations on this common theme, and the latest evidence do,” explains Dr. Katz.” By bringing together the assessments of diverse experts and bundling all of this essential information into a single, user-friendly and always eagerly awaited report, U.S. News is providing a unique and truly empowering service.”