Best (and Worst) Diet Plans – Are You Listening?

Best (and Worst) Diet Plans – Are You Listening?

For several years running the publication U.S. News has assembled an expert panel to rank popular eating plans for “overall” healthfulness, and how well those diets apply to several health-related categories (weight loss, heart health, diabetes, etc.). The panel also considers elements of the various eating plans which are not specifically health related, but go to practicality – “easy to follow” or “many restrictions,” for instance. Year to year the rankings are profoundly similar, and the rankings for 2018 are not significantly different than from previous years.

Best diet plans

The “winners” are eating plans that focus on encompassing a wide variety of foods, emphasizing fruits and vegetables and legumes, promoting lean meats and fish, and going easy on sweets and saturated fats. For our purposes here at the best diets “overall,” “for healthy eating,” “for diabetes,” and for “heart health” were the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. This is nothing new, it’s not surprising and it should have us all taking a serious look at these two “generic” eating plans. I have posted about the DASH diet and done a video about the Mediterranean diet myself – I am a huge advocate for either.

Worst diet plans

I am not a huge advocate for “fad” diets, especially those I consider potentially dangerous. You’ll recognize these diets by the seemingly to-good-to-be-true promises, by their severe restrictions, by the outspokenness of their advocates, and sometimes by borderline conspiracy accusations directed at mainstream nutrition. Interestingly, you’ll generally find these diets ranked near the bottom of the annual US News piece, possibly accounting for the defensiveness of advocates. This year, lets talk about last place – ranked # 40 out of 40 – in the best diet “overall”, and in the best diet for “healthy eating” categories. This would be the “keto” diet, where “keto” is an abbreviation for ketogenesis, the creation of ketones.

What is the keto diet?

Ketones are created when your body is forced to burn fat for energy, as opposed to its favorite carbohydrate fuel (acetone – a common fingernail polish remover – is a ketone). The “keto” diet suggests that more than 70% of calories come from fat. When your body is burning fat and creating ketones you are said to be in a state of “ketosis.” Ketosis happens to people with type 1 diabetes when their insulin dose is not sufficient to provide enough glucose to cells, and can become life threatening “diabetic ketoacidosis” without intervention. The “keto” diet even includes warnings about muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, mental fogginess and light-headedness associated with ketosis.

The often-used “hook” for the “keto” diet is “fat burning.” This sounds great if you need to lose weight, and in this case (unlike shady “fat burning” supplements) the description is absolutely accurate – ketosis is literally a body state of burning fat. It’s a biological hedge to combat starvation. But, while the “keto” diet and faddish plans like it may be tolerable for a healthy young person looking to drop 10 pounds before their high school class’ 10th reunion, I hope you’ll agree that messing with your natural metabolism when you already have diabetes (and the increased risk for heart and kidney disease) is a questionable strategy indeed.

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