Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Battle of the Diets: And the Winner Is . . .

Consumer Reports (CR) has not rated the diets in 4 years. But their new report is out and has some surprises. Let’s start with a look at how CR rated the diets and then unveil the winners and the losers.
CR did a thorough job of looking at research studies to come up with their tops picks. Here are the major criteria:
  • Consumer Reports Diet Rating Criteria:
  • Overall Nutrition
  • Balance of Calories from Fat, Carbs, and Protein
  • Fiber and Sodium
  • Weight Loss
  • Dropout
As is typical with CR, they were very thorough and methodical in their evaluation. I was very impressed the long-term weight loss was a point that they looked at. Too many times people say a diet “worked” because they lost weight on it. But I’ve always said, if you couldn’t keep the weight off, then the diet really didn’t “work”.  

CR then gave each of the diets an overall score based on these criteria and nutrition guidelines. Here are the top diets and their overall scores:
    1. Jenny Craig = 85
    2. Slim Fast = 63
    3. Weight Watchers = 57
    4. The Zone = 54
    5. Ornish  = 48 (tie)
    5. Atkins = 48 (tie)

Some points:
  • Jenny Craig got major points for good overall nutrition, excellent very low dropout rates, and good overall long term weight loss. 92% of the participants stuck with the plan and had an average weight loss of 8% of their starting body weight after two years. 
  •  Weight Watchers has a major study getting ready to come out so they may have scored higher if that data was out.
  • Slim fast got a good score for overall nutrition and weight loss but had a very poor dropout rate.
  • The Zone lost out on long term weight loss.
  •  Interestingly, Ornish and Atkins scored the lowest. These two diets are polar opposites – Ornish is too low in fat and Atkins is too high which is why they both lost points! 
Does this mean you should run to Jenny Craig to lose weight? Not so fast. The best diet is the one that is nutritionally sound AND that you can stick with
I would love to hear anyone’s comments on these diets – if you’ve tried them, what your experiences were.
Beth Kitchin MS RD
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham 

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