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Diets Weigh In: A Comparison of Popular Diets

Written by Amanda Drennen in conjunction with UW-Colleges AODE Program

{Key: carbs=Carbohydrates, PRO=Protein}


The Diet

The Creator

The Plan

The Science

The Downside?

Additional Comments

Dr. Atkins

Dr. Robert Atkins, MD

A 4 phase eating plan that restricts carbs, allows abundant fat and PRO. Approximately 50% Fat, 30% PRO, and 5-15% carbs

We burn carbs before fat, if we restrict carbs our body will start to burn its own fat for energy = ketosis = weight loss.

Too little fiber, too much PRO could = colon cancer, kidney stones, osteoporosis, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, nutritionists say in the long run.

Many people don't follow the plan correctly or they stay on the 1st phase of the diet for extended periods of time and this could lead to health risks! atkins.com

South Beach

Dr. Arthur Agaston, MD

A 3 phase plan on eating the "right" Carbs rather then low carbs, although the 1st 2 weeks of the plan carbs are very restricted. Promotes lean meats, seafood, olive oil & canola oil. Restricts sugar/white flour.

Eating more PRO/healthy fats and less carbs causes less hunger cravings and insulin in blood. Carbs spike insulin in blood resulting in cravings for more carbs=weight gain.

Some nutritionists feel that the weight lost in beginning can be drastic and result in loss of a lot of water in the body. On the other hand, many nutritionists support this diet as being healthy and suggest drinking lots of water to replace what is lost.

We need some saturated fat in our bodies: our cell membranes, for instance, are made up of 50% saturated fat! This plan is very easy to follow. Caution use of artificial sweeteners/ trans fats! www.southbeachdiet.com

The Zone

Dr. Barry Sears, MD

This plan calls for eating a certain ratio of carbs, fats, PRO at every meal: 40% carbs, 30% fat and 30% PRO.


Similar to plans above in that eating more fat and protein will smooth out insulin levels/food cravings and lead to weight loss through burning fat not carbs.

Constant measuring of portions and calculating calories could be tedious. Possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies in long run.

Gives info and support for exercise plan to go with diet.


Weight Watcher's

Jean Nidetch

All foods have a point value and each person has a certain point limit based on their current weight. Example for 1 day: Breakfast-4pts., lunch-6pts., dinner 9pts, and snacks-3pts=22point target.

Foods are assigned points based on #of calories, grams of fat, and grams of fiber. Reduction in caloric intake compared to weight will result in weight loss.

Pounds come off much slower then above diets with about 2-3 lbs. per week expected. Weight Watcher's brand foods are expensive. Food cravings may still occur.

Very structured but yet allows the dieter to have "flex points" when needed. Large support group online or off for emotional, physical or mental needs. . www.weightwatchers.com


Numerous authors of Macrobiotic books

Oriental style vegetarian diet. Approximate guidelines: 30% veges, 10% brothy soup, 10% beans and sea veges, 50% whole grains. Occasional added seafood, nuts, fruit.

Belief that a low fat, high fiber diet using fresh ingredients will cause weight loss and become a dietary pattern for life.

Nutritionists suggest limited food choices may cause nutritional deficiencies such as iron, vitamin D to name a few. Lots of time for food prep.

High in antioxidants. www.macrobiotic.com.






Raw Foods

Paul Nison; Juliano Brotman and Ericka Lekert

Eating only vegetarian foods in their raw, preferably organic, uncooked state without chemicals or preservatives.

Cooking kills enzymes and nutrients in our food causing our bodies to use its own enzymes to digest the food we eat. (Anything cooked higher then about 118 degrees) The idea, therefore, is that raw foods give optimal nutrition.

Limited food choices may cause deficiencies in vitamin B12, D to name a few. May be difficult to stick with due to limited food choices. Possibly too low in healthy fats/PRO.

High in healthy antioxidants. www.rawfoods.com


Blood Type

Dr. Peter D'Adamo, ND

"O" blood types should consume high PRO/Fat. "A" bloods types should consume high majority of food as carbs. While "B" or "AB" can consume a variety of carbs, fats, and PRO.

Belief that ancestral blood types O, A, ate certain foods in historically such as primarily meat or grain. Then B, AB developed later and were able to eat both meat and vegetables or a varied diet.

Hasn't been under much scientific study. Again, nutrient deficiencies may develop if certain foods are not eaten.

Would be good to have more studies done on this!


Dr. Phil


Dr. Phillip McGraw, PhD

A cognitively based diet plan following several outlined tips for success. Meal plans include carbs, veges, lean meats and healthy fats and allows fruit.



Through pre-planned meals/menus in his book, Dr. Phil explains why "high-response" foods are good and "low response" foods are bad. Uses behavior modification in addition to diet for weight control.

Weight loss pills that are promoted are questionable and very expensive. Nutritionists suggest he has just recycled well-used weight plans from the past.

Encourages getting a "circle of support" for the dieter to help issues that arise.


See book "Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 keys to weight loss freedom"

Sugar Busters

H. Leighton Steward; Morrison C. Bethea, MD; Sam S. Andrews, MD; Luis A. Balart, MD

A plan that's similar to The Zone but calls for 40%Fat, 30% PRO, and 30% carbs. Elimination of sugars is key to this diet.

Through choosing healthy carbs, fats and PRO and eliminating all sources of insulin increasing sugars out of our diet will cause weight reduction.

Nutritionists again suggest that limiting our food choices may leave us deficient in certain nutrients. Some researchers say high protein may lead to kidney damage.

Doesn't involve calorie counting. Eliminating refined sugar is a very positive thing!




Dr. Ornish


Dr. Dean Ornish, MD

This plan is a low fat, plant-based diet of fruits, veges, whole grains, beans, soy in natural forms. 10% of total calories can come from fat. Excludes all cooking oils (except canola) and most animal products.


This plan was originally developed to reverse heart disease, but has been adapted for those who don't have heart disease. Based on the theory that low fat diets and lots of healthy carbs will cause weight reduction.

Does allow white sugar and white flour. Limiting animal products may cause deficiency in Vit B12, Vit D, calcium, and more. Not enough healthy PRO and fats may leave gaps in nutritional needs.

Too little fat in our diets can be just as harmful as having too much fat. Also depends on what kind of fat we are choosing. This program is good in that it encourages exercise, yoga, meditation, etc.



Conference Call on Diet Fads (45 min.)