LA Times Op-Ed Slams US News & World “Best Diets” Report
A new op-ed in the Los Angeles Times lambastes US News & World Report for their January cover story that ranks the DASH and Mediterranean Diets as the best – and healthiest – diets for weight loss. The op-ed authors, Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz, warn that there are red flags all over this report – namely, that these diets epitomize “the failed nutritional status quo of the last 50 years.”
LA Times takes aim at US News & World Report’s “best DASH diet”
According to Taubes and Teicholz, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet ranked No. 1, even though it’s been tested on just 2,000 people (mostly middle-aged people with hypertension) in studies that lasted no more than six months. Despite limited testing, the low-sodium, low-fat DASH diet – which encourages whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy – has been promoted by the U.S. government for over 20 years. However, evidence that it has a positive impact on diseases like obesity and diabetes doesn’t stack up. In fact, in the few DASH studies conducted, the diet lowered blood pressure, but worsened protective HDL cholesterol levels. And when researchers compared DASH to a higher-fat version of itself, the high-fat diet lowered blood pressure just as well as the DASH diet, and improved other cardiovascular markers, like triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, while the DASH diet did not.
Duped by the Mediterranean diet too
And what about the Mediterranean diet, which came in second in the US News rankings? Taubes and Teicholz cite one notable 2013 study on approximately 7,500 people in Spain. After a whopping five years, dieters reduced their cardiovascular risk by a trite 2%. The diet also had little impact on mortality or weight loss – and the study itself didn’t have a control group to demonstrate how the Mediterranean Diet stacks up against no dietary changes at all.
Outdated nutrition advice needs to go
Taubes and Teicholz assert that US News is negligently recirculating outdated nutrition advice from the 1970s that advocates grains and cereals over animal products, and highly processed, unstable vegetable oils over stable animal fats like butter. We currently face a national obesity and diabetes crisis, which has gotten worse in the 50 years since Americans adopted these supposedly heart-healthy dietary recommendations.
It’s possible, posit the authors, that the doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists on the US News panel are supported by industries that benefit from DASH and Mediterranean diets. This wouldn’t be the first instance in history where big money led to bad health advice. Read this report revealing how the sugar industry hid evidence linking sugar to heart disease and cancer. Or dive into the actual science behind the top ten erroneous (and harmful) health claims. It’s also surmisable that these experts simply can’t break free from 50 years of outdated thinking. Whatever the case, escalating disease and death rates leave the everyday American with one choice – ferret out the best information for him/herself.
Low-carb, high-fat diets are effective at combating obesity and diabetes
Here’s what’s odd about the US News report – diets calling for low-carb, high-fat intake do show signs of health-related improvements in studies – and yet, these diets came in last in the rankings. Specifically, the ketogenic diet came in dead last. Taubes and Teicholz call this more than unfortunate – as preliminary results of a current trial reveal that Type 2 diabetes symptoms can be reversed in ten weeks on a keto diet. What’s more, there are numerous clinical trials demonstrating that low-carb diets benefit people with nutrition-related diseases. In sum, the LA Times authors note that the majority of evidence shows low-carb diets are safe and effective for combating obesity, treating Type 2 diabetes, and improving most cardiovascular risk factors.
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