Rating the Diets: U.S. News and World Report Annual Rankings for 2022

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Stephen W. Farrell, PhD, FACSM
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January 5, 2022

Rating the Diets: U.S. News and World Report Annual Rankings for 2022

It’s that time of year again. Countless numbers of individuals will make a resolution to lose weight in 2022. It’s no secret to those of us with an interest in health and fitness that 70% of American adults are overweight or obese.* Obesity is strongly associated with a number of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, knee osteoarthritis, and some cancers.

During any given year, it is estimated that 45 million Americans will be dieting. These numbers provide a rich and fertile environment for a seemingly endless number of popular diets, some of which are very questionable at best. Each year, U.S. News and World Report provides a tremendous public service by releasing their annual ratings of popular diets. For 2022, a team of 27 nutrition experts including Registered Dietitians, physicians, and nutrition scientists rated the effectiveness of 39 different diets in the following areas: easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss, and protective against diabetes and heart disease. Additional details regarding these areas can be found at the end of the blog. Each of the areas was rated on a scale of 1-5 stars. There were several different categories of best diets, including best diets overall, best weight loss diets, best commercial diets, best diets for healthy eating, best heart-healthy diets, best diets for diabetes, best plant-based diets, and easiest diets to follow. For those interested in weight loss, it is very important to note that the focus should be on long-term weight control rather than short-term weight loss. Additionally, since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for U.S. men and women, whichever dietary approach is selected should be one that is rated highly as heart-healthy!

In the best diets overall category, the Mediterranean Diet led the way. The Dietary Approaches for Stopping Hypertension (DASH), and the Flexitarian Diet finished in a two-way tie for second place. These were followed closely by the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diet. At the other end of the spectrum, bottom dwellers included the Ketogenic, Modified Keto, and Dukan Diets, as well as the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet.

In the best diets for weight loss category, the top finishers were the Flexitarian, Weight Watchers, and Vegan diets, all of which tied for first place. Among those pulling up the rear were the Alkaline, Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), and GAPS diets.

In the best heart-healthy diets category, there was a 2-way tie for first place, with the Mediterranean and Ornish Diets leading the way. They were followed closely by the Flexitarian and DASH Diets. The GAPS, Whole30, Modified Keto, and Dukan Diets were among those who brought up the rear in this category.

Because approximately 100 million Americans currently have metabolic syndrome and/or diabetes, we thought it important to mention ratings for some of the best and worst diets for diabetes. At the top of the list, the Mediterranean Diet led the way. In a tie for second place were the Flexitarian and Vegan Diets, followed closely by the Mayo Clinic Diet. Bottom dwellers for this category included the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), Whole 30, GAPS, and Dukan diets.

You might be interested in some of the specific comments made within the report:

  • The Mediterranean Diet may offer a host of health benefits, including weight loss, heart and brain health, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. By following the Mediterranean diet, you could also keep that weight off while avoiding chronic disease.
  • The DASH Diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to stop (or prevent) hypertension. It emphasizes the foods you've always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), which are high in blood pressure-deflating nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber.
  • Experts ranked the Keto Diet near or at the bottom of every category, besides short-term weight loss. An editorial appearing online July 15, 2019, in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that “enthusiasm outpaces evidence” when it comes to a keto diet for obesity and diabetes.
  • Slapping the Paleo Diet with multiple low scores, the experts couldn’t accept that entire food groups, like dairy and grains, as well as legumes are excluded, making it hard for dieters to get all the nutrients they need. Paleo was once again deemed too restrictive to be healthy or sustainable.
  • Experts dealt the Alkaline Diet mostly very low scores, pronouncing it difficult to follow and noting that its nutrition profile isn’t ideal. One expert commented “This diet is ridiculous, poorly researched, and not based on science.”

Definitions Used in Rating the Diets

Short-term weight loss. Likelihood of losing significant weight during the first 12 months, based on available evidence (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

Long-term weight loss. Likelihood of maintaining significant weight loss for two years or more, based on available evidence (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

Diabetes. Effectiveness for preventing diabetes or as a maintenance diet for diabetics (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

Heart-healthy. Effectiveness for cardiovascular disease prevention and as risk-reducing regimen for heart patients (5 = extremely effective, 4 = very effective, 3 = moderately effective, 2 = minimally effective, 1 = ineffective).

Ease of compliance. Based on initial adjustment, satiety (a feeling of fullness so that you'll stop eating), taste appeal, special requirements (5 = extremely easy, 4 = very easy, 3 = moderately easy, 2 = somewhat difficult, 1 = extremely difficult).

Nutritional completeness. Based on conformance with the federal government's 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a widely accepted nutritional benchmark (5 = extremely complete, 4 = very complete, 3 = moderately complete, 2 = somewhat complete, 1 = extremely incomplete).

Health risks. Including malnourishment, specific nutrient concerns, overly rapid weight loss, contraindications for certain populations or existing conditions, etc. (5 = extremely safe, 4 = very safe, 3 = moderately safe, 2 = somewhat unsafe, 1 = extremely unsafe).

Here is a link to the 2022 ratings by U.S. News and World Report. Kudos to them once again for doing such a great job with this important annual project!


Best Diets: U.S. News and World Report. Published January 4, 2022.

*Overweight in adults is defined as a body mass index (BMI) between 25.0 and 29.9 kg/m2, while obesity is defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2. Use this link to calculate your BMI. Please note that BMI is not a valid indicator of body weight status for individuals who are extremely muscular. However, such individuals make up only a tiny portion of the U.S. population.


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