Everyone knows the best diet, right? Oh, wait, your idea of the best diet is different than mine? And it’s different from the other twenty people we might ask? There have been magazine reports that searched for the “best” diet, but how about something truly scientific? Well now there is a report out of Yale University that attempts to answer the age-old question, “What is the best diet?”
Dr. David Katz and Dr. Stephanie Meller recently published their paper, titled “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?” in the journal Annual Reviews. They considered diets based on the popular categories: low carbohydrate, low fat, low glycemic index, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleo (cave man) and vegan. The study attempted to discover positive impacts of these diets on life span, cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, dementia and obesity.
The authors cite existing wisdom that general quality of life depends on “feet, forks and fingers.” That means feet (activity level), forks (what you eat and how much you eat) and fingers (do you smoke) are the primary predictors of how long and well you will live. Beyond that, they found no good science on the relative merits of particular diets, despite what you might hear on Dr. Oz.
They did make some broad observations on diets in general, saying "A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention." Further, vegetarian diets with balanced nutritional components delivered better experience for heart disease and cancer. They also noted that the Mediterranean Diet, which includes limited wine and meat, also delivered good results in these areas.
Some diets did not fare so well. Doctors Meller and Katz observed no benefit from low-fat diets compared to “good” fat diets, like the Mediterranean Diet. When examining the low glycemic index diets, they noted that some very beneficial foods have high glycemic indexes, yet their benefit outweighs the sugar rush.
Another diet taking it on the chin was the Paleo, or Cave Man Diet. They found that eating mostly meat had no positive medical benefit, observing that the meat of cave man days is not available now, and that our current vegetables did not exist during cave man times.
The conclusion of the report? There is no “best” diet. Sigh. They say that our diet quest is damaged by “distractions associated with exaggerated claims” and unrealistic goals.
So eat well, eat moderately, take a walk every day, and DON’T SMOKE. You will thank yourself later.