by Laura Power, MS, PhD, LDN
© April 2006
It is estimated that 50% to 60% of Americans are overweight. Preventable deaths due to
obesity exceed 300,000 per year, with an economic burden estimated at $100 billion. As a
result many popular weight-loss books abound. The most popular include: The Atkins Diet,
Protein Power, South Beach Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Sugar Busters, The Zone, DASH Diet, ADA
Exchange Diet, Anderson Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Pritikin Diet, and Ornish Diet. Which do you
think are the most and least healthy? Which is right for you? That depends on your biotype and
your allergies. I have rated them: 1-5 stars.
A Scientific Comparison
Three scientists, Anderson, Konz & Jenkins, conducted a study that compared 8 of these 12
weight-loss diets in 2000, to assess their long-term health consequences, and the advantages
and disadvantages. A computer program called Nutritionist IV was used to compare the 8
programs, based on 1600 calorie diets. The researchers then used established formulas to
estimate coronary heart disease risk factors. To this I have added published information/data on
the South Beach Diet, the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet, and the Mayo Clinic Diet.
Two Theories For Obesity
These diets are based on two competing theories for the cause of obesity. (1) The first theory
holds that high sugar intake increases insulin resistance leading to obesity and diabetes, and
increases serum cholesterol leading to coronary heart disease (CHD). So multiple books have
focused on high-fat diets and high-protein diets to reduce sugar intake. (2) The second theory
holds that high fat intake raises serum cholesterol leading to CHD, and raises uric acid and
impedes carbohydrate metabolism, leading to insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes. So other
books have focused on high-carbohydrate diets to reduce fat intake. There is scientific evidence
to support both theories, and some diets do recognize both.
Results of Dietary Comparisons
The results of the dietary comparisons are as follows: On the down side, this study showed
that high fat diets may promote short-term weight loss, BUT they are higher in saturated fats
and cholesterol, and long-term use will increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and
fatty liver disease. A Harvard study showed that high-carb intake lowers HDL (good cholesterol),
while protein raises it. Other studies show that high salt contributes to high blood pressure.
Further studies show that extremely low fat diets deplete cholesterol needed for hormones and
nerves, and deplete fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,
and may also lead to heart disease and other diseases. Still other studies show that high protein
diets increase the risk of kidney disease. In summary, extremes are not good. Moderate diets
are safer. No surprise there! On the up side, diets with lower sugar, lower salt, higher complex
carbohydrates, higher fiber, and lower fat will reduce serum cholesterol, reduce insulin
resistance, reduce obesity, reduce diabetes, reduce hypertension, and reduce the risk of CHD.
Let us examine and compare each of these 12 diets.
**Click To View Comparative Color Table ** (pdf)
1. THE ATKINS DIET *
Robert Atkins wrote Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. This book subscribes to the high sugar
intake cause of obesity. It is a 6%-35%-59% ratio diet, and advocates severe carbohydrate
restriction and a high-fat diet. It also advises low fiber, and avoidance of: vegetables, fruits,
breads, cereals, and most dairy products, except for 2 small green salads per day.
ADVANTAGES: This diet leads to weight-lose in the short term, and helps reduce insulin
resistance. DISADVANTAGES: It is extremely high in saturated fats and cholesterol, and its
long-term use will increase the risk for CHD and fatty liver disease. The low fruit and vegetable
content will also increase risk of cancer. The excessive protein can lead to kidney disease.
Finally, this diet is risky for patients with dairy and egg allergies.
2. THE PROTEIN POWER DIET *
Protein Power was written by DRS. Michael and Mary Eades. This book also subscribes to the
high sugar intake cause of obesity. It supposedly emphasizes high protein foods over high fat.
However, an analysis of fat and protein percentages shows a 9%-37%-54% ratio diet, which
closely resemble the Atkins Diet, although this diet has more mono-unsaturated fat and less
saturated fat. It allows limited amounts of fruits and vegetables. ADVANTAGES: This diet leads
to weight-lose in the short term, and helps reduce insulin resistance. DISADVANTAGES: It is
extremely high in fat and cholesterol, and long-term use would increase the risk for CHD and
fatty liver disease. Lower fruit and vegetable intake would also increase cancer risk. The
excessive protein can lead to kidney disease. And this diet is risky for patients with dairy and
3. THE SOUTH BEACH DIET **
The South Beach Diet was written by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist, who designed this
diet to reduce heart disease in his patients. This diet also subscribes to the high sugar intake
cause of obesity, but it does not recommend a traditional low-carb diet. Instead, it advises a
28%-33%-39% ratio diet, but emphasizes healthy carbs, such as whole grains and certain fruits
and vegetables; mono-unsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil and nuts; and lean sources
of protein. ADVANTAGES: This diet has higher carbs, much less total fat, way less saturated fat,
much less cholesterol, and more fruits and vegetables than the Atkins or Protein Power diets. It
has been successful for weight loss and in combating heart disease, and would be less of a cancer
risk. DISADVANTAGES: It is still a high fat diet, unproven over the long term, with some
health risks. And the excessive protein can lead to kidney disease. There is also the problem of
gluten intolerance in certain people.
4. THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET ***
The Mediterranean Diet comes from the peoples of Southern Italy, Greece, Portugal and
Spain. There are a half-dozen books on this diet. The recommendations are based on analysis of
actual Mediterranean diets, in this case 22,000 Greek adults. The analysis shows a high-fat and
moderate-carb diet with a 40%-17%-43% ratio. But this reflects a high amount of mono-
unsaturated fats. The diet contains: vegetables, fruits, cereals, dairy products, meats and
poultry, fish, wine, legumes, and olive oil – in that order. ADVANTAGES: This diet is lower in fat
and protein and higher in carbohydrates than most other high-fat diets. It has the highest level
of mono-unsaturated fats of any known diet (good for healthy hearts). Plus it is high in fruits,
vegetables and fiber -- and low in sugar, salt and cholesterol. This regimen is associated with a
far lower rate of cardiovascular disease than the USA. DISADVANTAGES: This diet still has
fairly high saturated fats. It is not an appropriate diet for people with allergies to gluten grains,
dairy products, or sulfites.
The Atkins and Protein Power diets are too extreme and dangerous. The South Beach and
Mediterranean diets are less extreme, but still too high in total fat. I do not recommend these
5. SUGAR BUSTERS! ***
Sugar Busters! was written by Leighton Stewart, Morrison Bethea, MD, Sam Andrews, MD,
and Luis Belart, MD. This book also subscribes to the high sugar intake cause of obesity. It is a
high-protein diet, and focuses on reducing high-glycemic carbohydrates to lower insulin levels
and reduce insulin resistance. These include: white bread, white rice, potatoes, corn, beets,
carrots, etc. The diet emphasizes intake of low-glycemic foods (high-fiber vegetables, fruits and
whole grains), lean meats and fats in moderation. Wine is also recommended as containing less
calories than bread, but this is inaccurate, as alcohol is metabolized as a fat (@ 7/cal/gm), not as
a carbohydrate (@ 4/cal/gm). ADVANTAGES: This diet is more moderate. It has less total fat,
cholesterol and protein than the high-fat diets and more carbohydrates, with medium amounts
of sugar. DISADVANTAGES: It has more saturated fat than the South Beach Diet, and therefore
poses some risk of CHD. The higher protein ratio (28%) is inappropriate for patients with kidney
disease. It also poses a problem for patients with gluten intolerance and sulfite allergies.
6. THE ZONE DIET *****
The Zone Diet was written by Barry Sears, PhD. [He also wrote a book called The Soy Zone
for vegetarians.] This also subscribes to the high sugar intake cause of obesity. This is a high-
protein diet. The Zone book promotes the safe “zone” of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and
30% fat, and is virtually identical in macronutrient percentages to Sugar Busters (40%, 28%,
32%). It also claims that the “zone” promotes an “optimal metabolic state”, which is determined
by specific eicosanoids. This diet focuses on lean meats (especially poultry), but avoids high-fat
animal products (fatty meats, dairy products, eggs), as well as most grain products, starchy
vegetables, and some fruits. ADVANTAGES: This diet is more moderate, and is safer for those
with gluten grain intolerance, and dairy and egg allergies. It has less total fat, cholesterol and
protein than the high-fat diets and more carbohydrates. It also has less saturated fat and more
mono-unsaturated fat than Sugar Busters. DISADVANTAGES: It still has slightly more
saturated fat than the South Beach Diet, and therefore poses some risk of CHD. The higher
protein ratio (28%) is inappropriate for patients with kidney disease.
Sugar Busters and The Zone Diet are very similar. The Zone is less extreme and safer. It is
a good diet for blood type O’s and blood type A2’s, who do well with a higher-protein hunter-
gatherer diet, and poorly with gluten grains, dairy products, and eggs.
7. THE DASH DIET (Anti-hypertensive) *****
DASH stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. The DASH Diet is based on a
collaborative study by Harvard University, Duke University, John Hopkins University, and
Louisiana State University. There are 2 books, one authored by Marla Heller, MS, RD, and the
other authored by Thomas Moore, MD & Mark Jenkins, MD. This diet is endorsed by the National
Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, and the US
Guidelines for Treating Hypertension. This is a 55%-18%-27% diet, and subscribes to the GASS
cause of disease and obesity: grease, alcohol, sugar and salt! It recommends these portions per
day for 1600 calories: 4 fruit, 4 vegetables, 2 low-fat dairy, 2 meat-poultry-seafood, 6 grains (3
whole grains), 2 fats & sweets, plus beans and nuts 3-4 times per week. It also advises foods
that are high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. ADVANTAGES: For
the most part this is a balanced diet with no extreme percentages of macronutrients. It is low in
sugar, salt, alcohol and saturated fat, with moderate levels of total fat, and a high level of mono-
unsaturated fats. It emphasizes helpful minerals and antioxidants to lower blood pressure and
prevent disease. It has been shown to be effective in treating hypertension, stroke, CHD,
diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer. DISADVANTAGES: This diet does not emphasize whole grains
enough, recommends margarines (hopefully not with trans-fatty acids), and allows such junk
foods as “jelly beans” and “diet sodas”. Finally, this is not a good diet for people with allergies to
gluten grains, dairy, or egg whites. Future: The DASH-2 study is underway to compare 3 levels
of sodium intake.
The DASH Diet is fairly balanced and safe. It is a good diet for blood type A1’s, because it has
slightly higher fat (27%), with medium carbs and protein. Anthropological research shows that
type A’s traditionally eat higher fat diets than other blood types.
MODERATE HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE DIETS
8. THE ADA DIET ***
The ADA Diet is the official diet of the American Dietetic Association. This is a
60%-20%-20% diet. It is based on “exchange units”. For a 1600 calorie diet, it includes: 9
starch, 4 fruit, 4 vegetable, 5 meat, 2 milk, and 6 fat exchanges. ADVANTAGES: This is a
moderate high-carb diet with no extreme percentages of macronutrients. DISADVANTAGES:
This is not a good diet for people with allergies to diary, gluten grains or eggs. Also there is
little emphasis on whole grains or lean meats. Finally, this diet is offered by dietitians and
hospitals, but is not available in book or other commercial format.
9. THE ANDERSON DIET *****
Dr. Anderson’s High Fiber Fitness Plan was developed by James Anderson, MD, Professor of
Medicine and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Kentucky, and officer of the American College
of Nutrition. This diet is a 63%-16%-21% diet, and employs exchange units. For a 1600 calorie
diet it advises: 1 high-fiber cereal, 5 fruits, 5 vegetables, 8 starches (whole grains), plus some
meat, poultry and seafood twice per week, and beans or legumes several times per week.
ADVANTAGES: This is a moderate high-carb diet, with no extreme percentages of
macronutrients. It also emphasizes high fiber, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
DISADVANTAGES: This is not a good diet for people with allergies to diary, gluten grains or
10. THE MAYO CLINIC DIET **
This is the official diet of the Mayo Clinic, called the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight For
Everybody. It is a moderate high-carb diet, employing a 66%-27%-13% ratio. For a 1600
calorie diet it advises these servings: unlimited vegetables (min 4), unlimited fruits (min 3), 4-8
carbohydrates, 3-7 proteins (meats, poultry, seafood, dairy), 3-5 fats, 75 calories of sweets.
ADVANTAGES: This is a moderate high-carb diet, with no extreme percentages of
macronutrients. It also emphasizes high fiber, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
DISADVANTAGES: This diet is too high in protein for patients with kidney problems, and too low
in fat (low fat soluble vitamins and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), and too low in mono-
unsaturated fats (which are heart protective). Unlimited fruits are not suitable for diabetics or
hypoglycemics. Finally, this is not a good diet for people with allergies to diary, gluten grains or
The Anderson Diet is healthier than the ADA Diet or Mayo Clinic Diet. It is a good diet for
blood type B’s and AB’s (minus any allergic foods), because it has higher carbs. Anthropological
studies show that type B’s traditionally eat higher-carbohydrate diets than other blood types.
EXTREME HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE DIETS
11. THE PRITIKIN DIET*
The Pritikin Diet was written by Nathan Pritikin. This diet subscribes to high fat intake as
the cause of obesity. It recommends a very high-carbohydrate diet, with extremely low fat, and
moderate protein. It advises: 2+ whole grains, 2+ raw vegetables, 3-4 fresh fruits per day, plus
beans and peas 1-3 times per week, while limiting animal protein and avoiding sugar and honey.
ADVANTAGES: It emphasizes whole grains, fresh raw fruits and vegetables, and low sugar
intake. DISADVANTAGES: It is excessively high in carbohydrates, which can destabilize blood
sugar, and is bad for diabetics and hypoglycemics. It is excessively low in fat, and can lead to
deficiencies of essential fatty acids (Ω3 & Ω6) and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is not
appropriate for those with gluten intolerance.
12. THE ORNISH DIET *
The Ornish Diet was written by Dean Ornish, MD. This diet subscribes to high fat intake as
the cause of obesity. It recommends a very high carbohydrate vegetarian diet, with extremely
low fat, and moderate protein. It advises: unlimited quantities of low-fat, high-fiber, complex
carbohydrate foods, such as beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Low fat dairy
products are allowed in moderation. The following are prohibited: meats, eggs, nuts, oils, seeds,
alcohol, and high fat fruits and vegetables (avocados and olives). ADVANTAGES: It emphasizes
whole grains, fresh raw fruits and vegetables, and low sugar intake. DISADVANTAGES: It is
excessively high in carbohydrates, which can destabilize blood sugar, and is bad for diabetics and
hypoglycemics. It is excessively low in fat and cholesterol, and can lead to deficiencies of
essential fatty acids (Ω3 & Ω6) and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is also low in vitamin
B12. It is not appropriate for those with gluten intolerance or dairy intolerance.
The Pritikin and Ornish Diets are very similar -- extremely high-carbohydrate diets. Both are
too extreme and dangerous, and can lead to life-threatening nutrient deficiencies. I do not
The Right Diet For Your Biotype
Avoid extreme diets. The high-fat diets carry long-term health risks; the exception appears
to be the Mediterranean Diet. The South Beach Diet can be used short term for obese cardiac
patients. The extremely high-carb diets carry equal long-term health risks. For weight loss
choose one of the following diets. Credible anthropological research by Kelso and Armelagos
shows that blood type A’s have traditionally eaten higher fat diets, whereas blood type B’s have
traditionally eaten higher carbohydrate diets, regardless of their geographic location. Blood type
O’s have eaten a variety of diets. But my Biotype Research shows that type O’s fare best with
higher protein diets and have the highest allergies to dairy and gluten. Thus the best choice for
blood type O’s and A2’s is The Zone Diet, a high-protein diet (40%-30%-30%). The best choice
for blood type A1’s is The DASH Diet, a balanced diet (55%-18%-27%). The best choice for
blood types B and AB is The Anderson Diet, a high-carb diet (60%-20%-20%). And for best
results, combine these with my Biotype Diet for your blood type, which shows data relating blood
types to food allergies – available for my patients, and will be in my upcoming book (2018).
For 8 Diets: Anderson, JW, Konz, EC, Jenkins, JA: Health Advantages and Disadvantages of
Weight-Reducing Diets: A Computer Analysis and Critical Review. JACN (Journal of the
American College of Nutrition), 19,5: 578-590, 2000.
South Beach Diet: YW Aude, AS Agatston, F Lopez-Jimenez, EH: The national cholesterol
education program diet vs a diet lower in carbohydrates and Higher in Protein and
Monounsaturated Fat. Arch Intern Med, 2004 - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Mediterranean Diet: Mediterranean diet evidence [August 2003; 114-2] Observational study
; Results; Randomized trial ; Results; Comment. www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/band114/
b114-2.html. This study gathered food intake data on 22,000 Greek adults, which Dr. Power
analyzed with Nutri-Calc to determine the nutrient content.
Harvard Diet: Food Pyramids: Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health
DASH Diet: Nutrition Action Healthletter, CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), May
2003, October 1997.
Mayo Clinic Diet: MayoClinic.com, A sample menu using the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight
Pyramid, June 2005.
ABO Blood Types & Diets: Kelso, J, Armelagos, G: Nutritional Factors As Selective Agencies
in the Determination of ABO Blood Group Frequencies. Southwestern Lore, XXIX,2: 1963.
Biotype Diets System: Blood Types & Food Allergies, Laura Power: Journal of Nutritional &
Environmental Medicine, Jan 1, 2007, p 1-11. Published first online by Informa Healthcare,
London, UK -- then later in print.