Dear Dietitian – The three least-helpful diets of 2022

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Published Thursday, January 27, 2022
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD

Dear Readers,

Last week we discussed U.S. News' rankings of the top three diets for overall health, so it seems only balanced to examine the bottom three this week. A panel of nutrition experts evaluated the diets based on seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety, and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease (1). 

The AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) and the Whole30 diets tied for the 35th out of 39 places. The AIP targets foods that may increase inflammation in those with an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Pro-inflammatory foods are eliminated, then gradually added back to the diet to target specific foods that cause symptoms. Although the expert panel suggested this diet might be worth trying if you have an autoimmune disorder, it scored low overall due to its restrictiveness and need for more scientific research.

The Whole30 diet's claim, although lacking scientific evidence, is that our modern, industrialized food production is the cause of many health problems. Alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar are eliminated for 30 days in this diet. On the 31st day, you begin adding foods back to your diet so you can identify the ones that cause digestive distress (2). 

The keto and modified keto diets are tied for the #37th best diet. Keto is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This diet provides quick weight loss initially, and many claim they don't feel hungry. Since you are taking in very few carbs, your body's preferred energy source, your body goes into a state of ketosis where it relies on fat for energy. The fat isn't broken down efficiently in the absence of carbohydrates, producing ketones in the process. Hence, the name keto.

The modified keto diet is slightly lower in fat and allows a few more carbs each day. These modifications make the diet easier to follow than the classic keto.

Bringing up the rear are the Dukan and GAPS diets. The Dukan diet was created by French physician Pierre Dukan. Its premise is that eating protein helps people lose weight, so on this diet, you eat a lot of meat with non-starchy vegetables. It promises fast weight loss initially, and once you've reached your goal, you slowly add bread, cheese, and fruit back to your meal plan (3).

The GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet eliminates foods in an effort to detoxify the body. GAPS is a term coined by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who believes if problem foods are eliminated, the intestinal lining can heal. She believes there is a direct connection to gut-brain health. While the diet may have positive digestive benefits, scientific research does not support its claims.

Dear Dietitian does not recommend any of the above diets for weight loss or better health. Please talk to your doctor before beginning a new diet.

Until next time, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian

References

  1. U.S. news best diets: how we rated 35 eating plans (2020, January 4). Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/how-us-news-ranks-best-diets
  2. Whole30 (2019). Retrieved from https://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/
  3. Spritzler, Franziska. The Dukan diet review: does it work for weight loss? Dec 12, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dukan-diet-101
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at deardietitian411@gmail.com. Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.

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