The 7 Most Famous Diets

Over 33% of the adult U.S. population is obese, and an additional 34% are considered to be overweight. Many Americans are often trying to lose weight, and it is estimated that we(Americans) spend $33 billion dollars per year on products for weight-loss.

Unfortunately, we can easily fall prey to the newest fad diets, which often promise dramatic weight loss despite being largely untested.According to Boston University School of Medicine:
• 98% of people who lose weight gain it back within 5 years
• 90% of people who lose weight gain back more weight than they originally lost
• Only 5 -10% of dieters maintain weight loss > 10% of baseline weight
Why do diets fail? According to Boston University School of Medicine:
• People revert back to old habits after diet ends
• Many diets are not sustainable
• Deprivation leads to binge eating
• Dieters continue to rely on internal cues.
Sustainable weight loss is often the result of a lifestyle change and not necessarily a “diet” with a start and end date connected to it.

Nonetheless, here is a list of the 7 most famous diets that are out there:

1. Atkins

The Atkins diet is alow-carbohydrate diet. There is an initial induction phase during which the dieter may consume no more than 20 grams per day of net carbohydrates (total carbohydrates – fiber). After the two-week induction period, carbohydrates are gradually increased to 120 grams per day. With the Atkins diet, there are no restrictions on intake of calories, protein, or fat (except no trans fats).

The Atkins diet satiates and provides structure. However, it can be too restrictive, too difficult to sustain, does not adhere to national dietary guidelines, may increase risk of cardiovascular disease, and is not recommended for people with kidney disease, pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers.

2. Paleo

The Paleolithic diet is also known as the “Paleo Diet”, Caveman diet, or Stone Age diet. It emphasizes eating plants and wild animals similar to what hunter-gatherers may have eaten about 10,000 years ago. The diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts. It excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

The Paleo Diet is typically low in sodium and may be more appealing to men. However, it can be expensive to follow, does not include grains and dairy (which can cause nutrient deficiency), and is higher in fat.

3. Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices. Eating fish and seafood several times a week is encouraged as well as enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation. Sweets and red meat should be reserved for special occasions.

The Mediterranean Diet covers all major food groups, has a diversity of flavors, may be easier to follow than other diets, and comes close to the American Heart Association’s dietary recommendations. However, it may be more expensive to follow, takes longer to prepare meals, and is not designed for weight loss.


The DASH diet was originally developed as a lifestyle intervention to lower blood pressure. It has the following major features:
• Emphasizes consumption of fruits and vegetables
• Low in saturated fat and cholesterol
• Moderate amount of protein (lean meat, poultry, fish, nuts, beans)
• High in fiber/low glycemic
• Includes sodium
The Dash Diet is a well-balanced diet, sustainable, and is endorsed by NIH, and the USDA MyPyramid.

5. Ornish

The Ornish Diet is a vegetarian diet designed to provide calories in the following ratio: 10% fat (very low), 20% protein, 70% carbs. There are no calorie restrictions, but it restricts simple carbohydrates (Alcohol, sugar, white flour). It eliminates cholesterol from the diet because it is vegetarian.

Strict adherence to the Ornish Diet can prevent or reverse heart disease and also emphasizes exercise and stress reduction. However, it can be too restrictive for many people to follow, and it is very difficult to maintain long-term adherence.

6. Vegetarian

Some people may choose to follow a “vegetarian” diet, but there are several different types of vegetarian eating patterns.

The vegan diet includes only foods from plants, fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds and nuts. Vegans do not consume animal products in any form. The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovovegetarian) diet also includes eggs. Semi-vegetarians don’t eat red meat but include chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products and eggs.

The vegetarian diet helps reduce the risk of heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, certain types of cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and gallstones. However, it can be low in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

7. Gluten Free

The Gluten-free diet is prescribed for people suffering with celiac disease and wheat allergy. However, this diet has gained popularity in people without specific allergies to gluten, mainly for weight loss purposes. This diet excludes all gluten-containing products. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and titicale (hybrid mix of rye and wheat). Gluten is also an additive to many foods.

While the Gluten Free Diet may decreasecarbohydrate consumption and increase intake of fruits and vegetables, it is not enriched with iron, fiber, or folate. The Gluten Free Diet is also difficult to adhere to.
So, what is the best “healthy eating” pattern?According to Boston University School of Medicine:
There are many variations on a successful program, but a successful program will likely have the following characteristics:
1. It should include foods from all the food groups and include the correct number of servings from each.
2. It should include foods you will enjoy eating for the rest of your life.
3. It should include foods you can buy at the supermarket.
4. It should include your favorite foods.
5. It should fit your budget and lifestyle.
6. It should be combined with regular physical activity.
What are the Criteria for Selecting a Weight Loss Program?
• It encourages physical activity, behavioral principles, and balanced nutrition. Be wary of diets that eliminate entire food groups.
• Target is for weight loss of 1-2 lbs/week
• Reasonable cost of program
• Long-term weight maintenance component
• Addresses relapse control and plateaus
• Evidence of successful outcomes

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