COMPARE 12 DIETS FOR WEIGHT-LOSS &

HEALTH

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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)

HIGH-FAT DIETS

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

egg allergies.

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.

COMPARISON

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

diets.

HIGH-PROTEIN DIETS

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.

COMPARISON

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.

BALANCED DIET

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.

COMMENTARY

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

eggs.

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

eggs.

COMPARISON

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.

COMPARISON

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

recommend them.

SUMMARY

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).

REFERENCES

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

[1]; Results; Randomized trial [2]; 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

www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramids.html.

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.