Choosing the best diet can be very difficult.

Choosing the best diet can be very difficult.

As featured in a today’s New England Journal Watch, US News and World Report has rankings for the best 34 diets.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has earned the top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Diet rankings, earning 4.1 out of 5 stars for best overall diet. To do well in this category, a regimen “had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.”

Close runners-up include the TLC Diet, the Mayo Clinic Diet, Weight Watchers, and the Mediterranean Diet. Coming in 34th (and last) place is the Paleo Diet.

Diets were also ranked in seven sub-categories. Weight Watchers earned the top slot for Best Weight-Loss Diet, the Biggest Loser Diet and DASH tied for first for Best Diabetes Diet, and the Ornish Diet won for Best Heart-Healthy Diet.

The toughest part is not picking a diet--it is sticking with it!

The toughest part is not picking a diet–it is sticking with it!

Here are the top 10 diets: 

#1:  DASH Diet

(4.1 out of 5.0)
DASH Diet recipes | DASH Diet reviews
DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health. Though obscure, it beat out a field full of better-known diets.

#2  TLC Diet
(4.0 out of 5.0)
TLC Diet recipes | TLC Diet reviews
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC, is a very solid diet plan created by the National Institutes of Health. It has no major weaknesses, and it’s particularly good at promoting cardiovascular health. One expert described it as a “very healthful, complete, safe diet.” But it requires a “do-it-yourself” approach, in contrast to the hand-holding provided by some commercial diets.

#3  Mayo Clinic Diet
(3.9 out of 5.0)
Mayo Clinic Diet recipes | Mayo Clinic Diet reviews
This is the Mayo Clinic’s take on how to make healthy eating a lifelong habit. It earned especially high ratings from our experts for its nutrition and safety and as a tool against diabetes. Experts found it moderately effective for weight loss.

#4  Mediterranean Diet
(3.9 out of 5.0)
Mediterranean Diet recipes | Mediterranean Diet reviews
With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other healthy fare, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. And experts’ assessments of it were resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors.

#5  Weight Watchers
(3.9 out of 5.0)
Weight Watchers recipes | Weight Watchers reviews
Weight Watchers is a smart, effective diet. It surpassed other commercial diet plans in multiple areas, including short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow. It’s also nutritionally sound and safe, according to experts. Among its pluses: An emphasis on group support, lots of fruits and vegetables, and room for occasional indulgences.

#6  Flexitarian Diet
(3.8 out of 5.0)
Flexitarian Diet recipes | Flexitarian Diet reviews
The Flexitarian diet, which emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains and plant-based protein, is a smart and healthy choice. It outperformed many of its competitors, with particularly high scores in nutritional completeness, easiness to follow and long-term weight loss. One panelist noted that this diet is “a nice approach that could work for the whole family,” and another described it as a “very good” plan.

#7  Volumetrics
(3.8 out of 5.0)
Volumetrics recipes | Volumetrics reviews
Volumetrics outperformed its competitors in many categories. It earned particularly high marks for being safe and nutritious, and experts said it could have a positive effect on heart health and diabetes. “This is an eating plan that everyone can benefit from,” one expert said.

#8  Jenny Craig
(3.7 out of 5.0)
Jenny Craig recipes | Jenny Craig reviews
Jenny Craig drew praise from experts for being easy to follow, nutritionally complete and safe, and for offering dieters emotional support. But these experts were lukewarm about its potential to bolster heart health or help diabetics. Experts also noted that Jenny Craig’s cost could be a roadblock for some.

#9  Biggest Loser Diet
(3.6 out of 5.0)
Biggest Loser Diet recipes | Biggest Loser Diet reviews
The diet received high marks for short-term weight loss, safety and soundness as a regimen for diabetes, and it was rated moderately effective for heart health. But many panelists felt that in a sea of diets, it’s not overly special, and one said it’s merely “capitalizing on the name” of the popular TV show.
#9  Ornish Diet
(3.6 out of 5.0)Ornish Diet
(3.6 out of 5.0)
Ornish Diet recipes | Ornish Diet reviews
The Ornish diet got a mixed reaction from experts. On one hand, it’s nutritionally sound, safe and tremendously heart-healthy. On the other, it’s not easy for dieters to adhere to the severe fat restriction the diet demands.Ornish Diet recipes | Ornish Diet reviews
The Ornish diet got a mixed reaction from experts. On one hand, it’s nutritionally sound, safe and tremendously heart-healthy. On the other, it’s not easy for dieters to adhere to the severe fat restriction the diet demands.

Duct tape: still not on the Best Diet list

Duct tape: still not on the Best Diet list

How Did US News and World Report Rank Diets?

Here is how they explained their research to determine rankings of diets.

Diets come and go, teasing and tempting us with dreams of that elusive hot body. Eat what you want! Pounds melt away overnight! The reality, as frustrated dieters know well, is that dieting is hard, and frankly, most diets don’t work. Some can even threaten your health. And digging out the truth about dieting, let alone deciphering whether particular plans live up to the hype, is laborious enough to burn off a pound or two by itself.

Best Diets 2015 cuts through the clutter of claims. Now in its fifth year, Best Diets delivers the facts about 41 eating plans and ranks 35 of them on a range of levels, from their heart healthiness to their likelihood to help you lose weight.

Many of the diets, like Weight Watchers, are household names, while others, like the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, should be. To create the fifth annual rankings, U.S. News editors and reporters spent months winnowing potential additions to our diet roster and then mining medical journals, government reports and other resources to create in-depth profiles for those that made the cut. This year, we added the HMR Diet, Supercharged Hormone Diet and Body Reset Diet to the rankings.

Each profile explains how the diet works, determines whether its claims add up or fall short, scrutinizes it for possible health risks – and reveals what it’s like to live on the diet, not just read about it.

A panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed our profiles, added their own fact-finding and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.

After every diet received robust scrutiny, we converted the experts’ ratings to scores and stars from 5 (highest) to 1 (lowest). We then used those scores to construct eight sets of Best Diets rankings, which have been refreshed to add the three diets new to the 2015 rankings. The eight ranking sets are as follows:

• Best Diets Overall combines panelists’ ratings in all seven categories. All categories were not equally weighted. Short-term and long-term weight loss were combined, with long-term ratings getting twice the weight. Why? Quick results are important after the holidays or when summer looms, but a diet’s true test is whether it can be sustained for years. That’s especially the case for those who are overweight or obese; losing as little as 5 percent of body weight can dramatically reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And safety was double-counted, because no diet should be dangerous.

• Best Commercial Diets uses the same approach to rank 15 structured diet programs marketed to the public.

• Best Weight-Loss Diets was generated by combining short-term and long-term weight-loss ratings, weighting both equally. Some dieters want to drop pounds fast, while others, looking years ahead, are aiming for slow and steady. Equal weighting accepts both goals as worthy.

• Best Diabetes Diets is based on averaged diabetes ratings.

• Best Heart-Healthy Diets uses averaged heart-health ratings.

• Best Diets for Healthy Eating combines nutritional completeness and safety ratings, giving twice the weight to safety. A healthy diet should provide sufficient calories and not fall seriously short on important nutrients or entire food groups.

• Easiest Diets to Follow represents panelists’ averaged judgments about each diet’s taste appeal, ease of initial adjustment, ability to keep dieters from feeling hungry and imposition of special requirements.

• Best Plant-Based Diets uses the same approach as Best Diets Overall to rank 11 plans that emphasize minimally processed foods from plants.

In all eight rankings, scores are rounded to one decimal place; diets with the same scores are ordered alphabetically.

In addition to the rankings, ratings in all seven categories are displayed for each diet as 1 to 5 stars on individual profile pages.

To ward off possible bias, each panelist provided information indicating clear or apparent conflicts of interest, such as a paid consulting relationship with a company marketing a particular diet. In such cases, panelists did not rate the diet. For commercial programs offering a range of tracks that may target specific groups, such as pregnant women or those with diabetes, U.S. News selected the most mainstream version.

A vexing challenge faced us early on. To rate the diets, experts needed more than just labels like “short-term weight loss” and “health risk,” which can mean different things to different researchers. What should the standard be for rating nutritional soundness? What constitutes a health risk? Aided by the panelists and other experts, we settled on the following definitions to use in rating the diets:

• Short-term weight loss. Likelihood of losing significant weight during the first 12 months, based on available evidence (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

• Long-term weight loss. Likelihood of maintaining significant weight loss for two years or more, based on available evidence (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

• Diabetes. Effectiveness for preventing diabetes or as a maintenance diet for diabetics (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

• Heart. Effectiveness for cardiovascular disease prevention and as risk-reducing regimen for heart patients (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

• Ease of compliance. Based on initial adjustment, satiety (a feeling of fullness so that you’ll stop eating), taste appeal, special requirements (5 = extremely easy, 4 = very easy, 3 = moderately easy, 2 = somewhat difficult, 1 = extremely difficult).

• Nutritional completeness. Based on conformance with the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a widely accepted nutritional benchmark (5 = extremely complete, 4 = very complete, 3 = moderately complete, 2 = somewhat complete, 1 = extremely incomplete).

• Health risks. Including malnourishment, specific nutrient concerns, overly rapid weight loss, contraindications for certain populations or existing conditions, etc. (5 = extremely safe, 4 = very safe, 3 = moderately safe, 2 = somewhat unsafe, 1 = extremely unsafe).

We could not assign scores to the cost of a plan, nor to exercise. Even dieters buying prepackaged meals from commercial programs have to shop for at least some food, and individual shopping habits and preferences, not to mention dining out, will heavily determine any dieter’s total expense. Exercise gets serious attention in some diets and lip service in others, but the primary focus of a diet, after all, is food. Whether to exercise, how and how much is a lifestyle decision beyond the scope of a mere diet.

What’s next for Best Diets? We plan to scrutinize more eating plans and give dieters a way to plug in their personal preferences and requirements so they can zero in on diets that have the best chance of working for them. With diets, one size never fits all.

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