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U.S. News unveils Best Diets 2014 rankings: Paleo diet ranked last

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Each year, U.S. News & World Report reveals its Best Diets report, with rankings based on input from top weight loss experts. And this year, the Paleo diet, although it came up as the most popular searched-for diet in Google rankings, got kicked back into the cave in the ratings, reported CNN on Jan. 7.

The Paleo plan involves following a low carb diet that's high in protein, fats and produce - but omits dairy, legumes, grains and sugar. It's popular among CrossFit exercisers.

However, to earn a top ranking from the U.S. News experts, a diet had to be considered easy-to-follow, nutritious, effective against conditions such as diabetes, safe and a winner for weight loss. The experts in this case felt there was insufficient research for the Paleo diet benefits, also condemning the high fat ketogenic Dukan diet at the bottom of the rankings.

In an exclusive interview on Jan. 7, U.S. News health and wellness editor Angela Haupt revealed to me the details of the top-ranked diet plans.

"Our experts rated Weight Watchers as the top diet for Weight Loss. You can expect to shed up to two pounds a week, and our experts were impressed with both its ability to deliver quick results - and the chance that those results will last over the long haul," said Angela.

U.S. News' panel included "nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease. These experts scored each diet in 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," Angela explained to me.

Diets are ranked in eight categories. The Best Diets overall are: DASH Diet (No. 1), TLC Diet (No. 2.), and Mayo Clinic Diet, Mediterranean Diet, and Weight Watchers, which tie for No. 3.

"These diets are relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss. They also help protect against or control diabetes and heart disease," said Angela.

And although it was the top Google-searched diet in 2013, the Paleo diet tied for last place with the Dukan diet.

If you're trying to lose weight, consider one of the three diets ranked highest for weight loss:

  • Weight Watchers
  • Jenny Craig
  • Biggest Loser

If you're trying to improve your overall health, go for:

  • DASH
  • TLC
  • Mediterranean Diet

Angela also noted that the reference to "The Biggest Loser" as one of the best for weight loss refers to the books (not the show): "The Biggest Loser: The Weight Loss Program to Transform Your Body, Health, and Life" and "The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start: Lose Weight, Get in Shape, and Start Living the Biggest Loser Lifestyle Today!" (click for details).

For the first time, experts ranked three additional diets: Acid-Alkaline Diet, the Spark Solution Diet and the Fast Diet – and added extensive profiles of two popular diets for digestive health – the Gluten-Free Diet and the Low FODMAP Diet.

As for the diets included for the first time, Angela provided the following details:

  • Spark Solution Diet: Expert reviews were mixed: One panelist called the Spark Solution a "comprehensive program that can lead to healthier eating behaviors," but another pointed out that there's nothing particularly novel about it. Overall, the plan tied for No. 13 out of 32 total diets, and it was judged the sixth best diet for weight-loss.
  • Acid Alkaline Diet failed to impress U.S. News' panel of diet and nutrition experts. "There's no scientific research to back up any of the claims," one panelist said. "No data. No follow up. No sale." The plan ranked No. 27 out of 32 diets overall, and outscored only one other - Paleo - in the weight-loss category.
  • Panelists expressed concern about the intermittent fasting approach offered in the Fast Diet. One expert termed it "just a gimmick."
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