‘Heart Healthy’ Study Uses Bogus Guidelines For Ranking Diets

Filed under: Study — @ October 3, 2007

Dr. Yunsheng Ma contends high-carb diets best for cardiovascular health

With all the attention being placed on high-fat, low-carb diets again with the release of the new Gary Taubes book Good Calories, Bad Calories last week, you just HAD to know a study like this one was bound to mysteriously show up seemingly out of thin air so it would make headlines. Don’t believe for a second this thing was not coordinated with the Taubes book release. It’s just too conveniently timed if you ask me.

Lead researcher Dr. Yunsheng Ma, assistant professor of medicine at the University Of Massachusetts Medical School, and his colleagues wanted to pinpoint which of the most popular diet plans over the past five years is best for heart health by rating them in order for their ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers chose the most popular weight loss plans that have hit The New York Times bestseller list since 2002 for this study to analyze them using the creation from Dr. Walter Willett from Harvard University called the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) as the standard by which to measure whether these various diets are “heart healthy” or not. This is a bit different from the USDA-recommended Healthy Eating Index which was the basis for the 2005 update to the much-heralded United States Department of Agriculture’s newly revamped Food Pyramid.

All of these diets were measured on a scale of 0-10 for each of the following seven conditions:

1. the ratio of white to red meat
2. ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat
3. quantities of fruit
4. quantities of vegetables
5. quantities of nuts and legumes
6. quantities of cereal fiber
7. quantities of trans fats.

As you can see, these are not a very low-carb friendly set of dietary stipulations from the get go, so the results should surprise no one. With 70 being the “perfect score,” here’s how the top ten diets did in a head-to-head face off using Dr. Willett’s guidelines (and it shouldn’t surprise anyone!):

Ornish (ultra low-fat diet)–64.6
Weight Watchers high carbohydrate–57.4
New Glucose Revolution–57.2
South Beach/Phase 2–50.7
2005 Food Guide Pyramid–48.7
Weight Watchers high protein–47.3
Atkins/100g carbohydrate–46
South Beach/Phase 3–45.6
Atkins/45g carbohydrate–42.3

Click here to read more about this so-called “study” and why it should be totally ignored by anyone considering going on a heart-healthy diet plan.


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