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Deep Dive: The diet dilemma—should you follow your heart?

A new meta-analysis suggests that the best diets for weight loss and cardiovascular health are those you can stick with.

Study under review: Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials

Introduction

From Atkins to Zone, you could probably find a diet or trending food fad for every letter of the alphabet. Proponents flood the media with endless claims of making your wildest health dreams come true. However, unlike the spotted moth of Darwinian fame, diets do not follow the rules of natural selection, and no one diet has consistently emerged as the most “fit” for supporting human health.

The implications of this confusion are far reaching, since diet is a major determinant of health. The high prevalence[1] of obesity and cardiovascular disease in the U.S., conditions for which diet is a modifiable risk factor, are a strong testament to this fact. Currently[1], heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and the American Heart Association has identified excess bodyweight as an important risk factor for the condition. It is clear, then, that the question is not whether what we eat is important. Rather, it is which diet (if any), among the seemingly endless list of available choices, is the most effective for weight loss and promoting cardiovascular health.

The network meta-analysis under review was designed to answer this question by directly comparing diets even if they were never directly compared through head-to-head trials.

Bodyweight and diet are major modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. Given the number of available diets, it is difficult to ascertain which diet is the most effective for promoting weight loss and reducing the risk of heart disease. The current study was designed to answer this question through a systematic review and network meta-analysis.

What was studied?

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The bigger picture

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Other Articles in Issue #69 (July 2020)