While people often lose weight for health reasons, new research suggests some diets may be better for your heart than others. A study completed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) indicate that popular weight loss plans have widely varying success rates in promoting heart health. Among the winners for heart health were the Ornish, New Glucose Revolution, and Weight Watchers High Carbohydrate plans.
In the study, researchers chose diets based on the New York Times bestseller list for the past five years. The diet plans that were included were the New Glucose Revolution, Atkins 100- and 45-gram Carbohydrate, South Beach Phase 2 and Phase 3, The Zone and Ornish. They also included Weight Watcher’s diet plans and the 2005 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid plans due to their popularity.
The researchers then measured each plan’s eating recommendations with the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), which measures foods that are linked to a reduction in the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Among the measures used was the ratio of red to white meat, ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturate fat, and the amount of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes recommended in the program.
“Obviously, obesity is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” said UMMS Assistant Professor of Medicine Yunsheng Ma, PhD, MPH, one of the study’s primary authors in a press release about the study. “Optimal weight-loss plans should facilitate both weight loss and chronic disease prevention, specifically cardiovascular risk reduction.”
The Ornish plan scored highest in the study. Followers of the Ornish diet are not allowed to eat meat, although limited dairy products and egg whites are allowed. The Ornish diet emphasizes low fat, high fiber foods and limits fats. The Ornish diet has been controversial because of its banning of nuts and fish, both of which contain healthy fats that some research has suggested protects the heart.
Weight Watchers High Carbohydrate and New Glucose Revolution plans also received high marks in the study. All plans that received high marks emphasized whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and advised limiting white flour and sugar. The diet with the lowest marks for heart health was the Atkins 45 gram carbohydrate plan.
However, one of the most surprising findings may be the 2005 USDA Food Guide Pyramid’s rank on the list.
“One of the unexpected findings is that the 2005 USDA Food Guide Pyramid, the current government recommendation, fared significantly worse than the New Glucose Revolution, Weight Watchers High Carbohydrate and Ornish plans,” said Ma in the press release detailing the study. “The USDA dietary guidelines were originally devised to prevent nutrient deficiencies and it’s clear that we need to modify or rebuild the pyramid to look into cardiovascular disease prevention, as it is the leading cause of death and disability for Americans. Americans deserve a better dietary guideline and recommendation”.
“UMass Medical School study identifies the best weight-loss plans for heart health.” Eurekalert.