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Dietitians, nutritionists, and psychologists have ranked the best diets of 2016

Science weighs in.

JESSICA ORWIG, BUSINESS INSIDER
8 JAN 2016
 

Not all diets are created equal, and no one knows that more than US News & World Report, which, on Tuesday, released a ranking of the best diets for 2016. Some of the diets are designed to help you lose weight, while others focus on lowering blood pressure, improving heart health, and even bettering your chances of conceiving. But one not-so-surprising thing resonates with each plan: They're all meant to improve health.

After months of combing through medical journals, government reports, and other sources, US News & World Report selected and ranked 38 diets. There were a lot of ties, but one diet came out on top. Here are the diets that made it into the top 10.

 

But first, here's how the ranking works:

After choosing the top diets, US News & World Report reached out to a panel of nationally recognised experts in a number of fields, including diet, nutrition, obesity, and food psychology. They rank the diets on a scale of one to five - one being minimally effective and five being extremely effective - for a number of categories, four of which we've included here:

1. Ability to help with short-term weight loss: The diet's ability to help you lose a significant amount of weight during the first 12 months.

2. Ability to help with long-term weight loss: The diet's ability to help you keep it off for two years or more.

3. Easiness to follow: How easy it'll be to switch and stick with the diet. It focuses on the ease of initial adjustment, how full you'll feel, the taste appeal of the food, and any special requirement that might make it difficult for certain groups – like people with diabetes.

4.Health: This is perhaps the most important category, because it tells you how safe the diet is for you. The ranking takes into account the risk of malnutrition and overly rapid weight loss. It also considers any health risks the diet may pose to specific populations, like people with high blood pressure or specific nutrient needs.

Diets evaluated for their health are further ranked from five = extremely safe to one = minimally safe.

Now, on to the rankings ...

No. 10. Jenny Craig - Total score: 3.7/5

Founded in 1983 by Jenny Craig and her husband, Jenny Craig Inc. specialises in weight loss and weight management. A number of celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Kirstie Alley, and Queen Latifah, have signed on to the program, which combines customised weight-management counseling with a menu of preprepared meals that customers can either have delivered to their doorstep or pick up at one of the company's more than 700 centers worldwide.

Here's how US News & World Report ranked the Jenny Craig diet in four categories:

Short-term weight loss: 3.8

Long-term weight loss: 3.2

Easy to follow: 3.6

Healthy: 4.2

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 8 (Tie). The Flexitarian Diet - Total score: 3.8/5

The flexitarian diet specialises in assisting with weight-loss by emphasising the importance of eating more vegetables and less meat. It's a perfect fit for those of us who like the idea of being vegetarian but can't manage to completely slash meat from our diets.

Instead of entirely avoiding meat, most flexitarians try to go vegetarian for three to five days a week. The idea is that by replacing calorie-heavy meats with low-calorie fruits and vegetables, you'll shed some extra pounds.

Here's why US News & World Report says this is one of the best overall diets of the year:

Short-term weight loss: 3.4

Long-term weight loss: 3.3

Easy to follow: 3.3

Healthy: 4.2

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 8 (Tie). Volumetrics - Total score: 3.8/5

One of the major pitfalls of diets is that they leave our stomachs grumbling at the end of the day. That's not the case with Volumetrics, which focuses on feeling full. But it's a slow process, so don't expect to drop 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in two weeks on this diet.

According to the diet's founder, Barbara Rolls, PhD, it's not the number of calories you consume that makes you feel full, but rather the amount and types of food you eat.

Volumetrics focuses on eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, and low-fat dairy. But you can still splurge on fatty meats and fried food occasionally.

Here's how this diet compares with the rest:

Short-term weight loss: 3.6

Long-term weight loss: 3.2

Easy to follow: 3.2

Healthy: 4.4

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). The Mediterranean Diet - Total score: 3.9/5

A number of celebrities have reportedly turned to the Mediterranean diet, including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Penelope Cruz, Elizabeth Hurley, and Isla Fisher.

The Mediterranean diet allegedly follows the traditional cooking style of countries near the Mediterranean Sea. That means lots of fish, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil. The point of this diet is to promote heart health and prevent disease.

A study of more than 1.5 million healthy adults revealed that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

Here's how this diet stacks up:

Short-term weight loss: 3.0

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.3

Healthy: 4.6

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). The Fertility Diet - Total score: 3.9/5

Believe it or not, what you eat may affect your chances of conceiving. "What you eat affects everything from your blood to your cells to your hormones," Cynthia Stadd, a nutrition specialist at the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness and Women's Health in New York City, told the website BabyCenter.com.

The doctors who founded the fertility diet - Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health - did so after a study they conducted where they found that women who regularly ate healthy fats, whole grains, and plant protein had a better egg supply than women who had a regular diet of refined carbohydrates, red meat, and saturated fats.

Here's how the judges thought this diet fared:

Short-term weight loss: 3.0

Long-term weight loss: 2.6

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy:4.4

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). The Mayo Clinic Diet - Total score: 3.9/5

Health experts at the Mayo Clinic created this diet, which purportedly can help you lose up to 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) in a year. This diet focuses on long-term weight loss by helping you develop a lifestyle designed to help you lose weight and keep it off.

To start, followers are supposed to break five unhealthy habits and add five new healthy habits. This diet is also heavy on the exercise and recommends that followers get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise a day.

By following the diet's guidelines, which you can find on the Mayo Clinic's website, you could lose 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.3 kilograms) in the first two weeks. Not bad!

Here's what the experts thought:

Short-term weight loss: 3.3

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.1

Healthy: 4.5

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 4 (Tie). Weight Watchers - Total score: 3.9/5

Anyone who's considered dieting has heard of Weight Watchers, the popular weight-loss program that claims you'll lose about 2 pounds (900 grams) a week with two simple rules: eat healthy and exercise.

The diet focuses on eating foods that are high in protein and low in saturated fat, calories, and sugar. The company's new SmartPoints food plan helps you track your eating habits. Celebrity Jessica Simpson reportedly lost 60 pounds (27.2 kilograms) with the help of Weight Watchers.

Here's how US News & World Report ranks it:

Short-term weight loss: 4.0

Long-term weight loss: 3.5

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.3

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 2 (Tie). The TLC Diet - Total score: 4/5

No, TLC doesn't stand for "tender loving care," but the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet does focus on loving and caring for your body.

The main point of this diet is to lower your cholesterol rather than lose weight. It's recommended by the National Institutes of Health's National Cholesterol Education Program and claims you can lower your cholesterol by 8 percent to 10 percent in six weeks.

Saturated fat is a key culprit in high cholesterol, so this diet focuses on cutting saturated fat by reducing your intake of meat and whole-milk products. And while it's not focused on weight loss, some followers do shed some pounds.

For a 2004 study, researchers put 120 overweight people on either the TLC or the Atkins diet for six months. On average, the TLC dieters lost 20 pounds (9 kilograms) each; those on Atkins lost 31 pounds (14.1 kilograms).

Here's why this is one of the best diets of the year:

Short-term weight loss: 3.2

Long-term weight loss: 2.8

Easy to follow: 3.0

Healthy: 4.7

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 2 (Tie). The MIND Diet - Total score: 4/5

The MIND diet focuses on eating foods that may help reduce your risk of neurological disorders - in particular, Alzheimer's. The name stands for 'Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay'. You'll learn more about the DASH diet below.

The diet has you eat foods that the medical literature suggests are good for the brain. These foods fall into 10 categories, including: green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, fish, beans, whole grains, and olive oil.

This is one of the easiest and healthiest diets to follow, which is why US News & World Report ranks it one of the top:

Short-term weight loss: 3.1

Long-term weight loss: 2.9

Easy to follow: 3.7

Healthy: 4.5

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

No. 1. The DASH Diet - Total score: 4.1/5

For the sixth year in a row, the DASH diet has taken first place for best overall diet of the year.

DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," or high blood pressure. The diet tries to instill a lifelong habit of eating that either helps to treat or prevents hypertension. For those with hypertension, the DASH diet may help drop systolic blood pressure by as many as 7 to 12 points.

While salt affects everyone differently, doctors generally agree that reducing sodium intake can help with hypertension, which is what the DASH diet does.

In addition to eating healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, you should limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day. For reference, one slice of frozen pizza has 370 to 730 milligrams!

Here's how the winner stacked up:

Short-term weight loss: 3.2

Long-term weight loss: 3.0

Easy to follow: 3.1

Healthy: 4.8

Learn more about what experts had to say about this diet here.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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