Here are the best and worst diets — maybe

U.S. News & World Reports — perhaps most famous for its best colleges and best high schools rankings — has brought its expertise and acumen to the world of food.

Its ranked — with the help of a panel of “health experts” — 35 different diets. According to its metrics, “To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.”

The best? An apparently government-approved one called “DASH”:

DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health. Though obscure, it beat out a field full of better-known diets.

From there, one created by the National Institutes of Health is next, followed by one from the Mayo Clinic. Feeling or seeing a pattern?

Well, No. 4 is the classic “Mediterranean Diet”:

With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other healthy fare, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. And experts’ assessments of it were resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors.

A few more to, er, whet your appetite: Jenny Craig at No. 8, The Biggest Loser at No. 9, a Vegetarian at No. 11. (Yep!)

But we have to go even farther down the list to get where I’m looking. Vegan — its No. 19. But that’s still not where my eye has fallen. Not even at the Macrobiotic, at a cool No. 26.

I’m looking at the Raw Food diet. Which — despite our experience — sucks, apparently. It’s at No. 32:

The experts conferred solid marks on the diet for weight loss, both short- and long-term, but considered it all but impossible to follow and its nutritional completeness and safety were concerns. “Doing it well involves considerable commitment and effort, knowledge and sacrifice,” one expert said. “And there are diets that require less of all these that are likely to be just as healthful.”

OK, maybe that is hard to argue with. But at least it is better than the Paleo, tied for the worst at No. 34 with something called the Dukan diet. (I was hoping that was Dunkin’, as in the doughnuts, but no.)

The one thing I’ll give this list is that it has fairly decent links explaining all the diets. But it sure isn’t friendly to anything that one might generally call “alternative.”

Posted by Steve

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Surprise: Doctors caution against a raw diet for kids

You may know a food trend has turned the corner into something else — perhaps old news — when the New York Times does a story about how it affects kids.

So, raw foodies, consider yourself passe.

The Times on Monday hunkered down and gave a look at kids who grow up on raw diets. And, surprise, doctors caution against it:

The Bowlands are among a growing cadre of families who are raising their children on entirely uncooked fare: fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and sprouted grains. While most of these diets tend to be vegan, some do include raw meat or fish, as well as raw or unpasteurized milk, yogurt and cheese.

But many doctors are cautioning against the trend. A child’s digestive system may not be able “to pull the nutrients out of raw foods as effectively as an adult’s,” said Dr. Benjamin Kligler, a family practitioner with the Center for Health and Healing in Manhattan.

Over the last year, Dr. TJ Gold, a pediatrician in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a strong focus on nutrition, has seen about five families who are feeding their children, including toddlers, raw diets. Some of the children were severely anemic, she said, and the parents were supplementing the diets with vitamin B12.

“If you have to supplement something for children in order to do it, is that really the right diet for them?” Dr. Gold said.

It’s hard to gauge how many families have adopted raw food diets, but websites abound, like the Raw Food Family blog, along with recipes, books, support groups, and products for purchase. The fifth annual Woodstock Fruit Festival in upstate New York this summer is expected to draw 1,000 raw-food devotees. About 20 percent are families with young children, said the founder, Michael Arnstein of thefruitarian.com.

Now, some of our longer-time readers may remember the usual take down of these types of Times pieces: a trend typically for them is something the reporter’s friends are doing, and then they find the scantest evidence to support their “trend” idea. As in: “about five families.”

Because there are only about 15 families, total, around Park Slope, I’m sure.

And then there is the requisite “it’s hard to judge” line. This time they used the word “gauge.”

That caution aside, with our continued mostly raw diet — to become much less so while in India — I have to point the piece out. (I suppose I’m also obliged to note the comments on it, which quickly suggest that raw eaters have eating disorders.)

I’ll note, too, that it ends on a refrain that is pretty much the one we share: moderation is best, and it is important to listen to what your body is telling you it needs.

Posted by Steve