Here Why You Should Ignore The U.S. News and World Report Diet Rankings

Every year, U.S. News and World Report publishes its annual rankings of popular diets.

You should ignore them. Here’s why. There is a huge problem with these rankings, and anyone who has a GPS will understand why immediately.

What does a GPS have to do with diet rankings?

Simple. See, a GPS is a dumb, inanimate bunch of electric circuits and it’s only as good as the information you program into it. If you tell the GPS where you want to go, it can do an excellent job of getting you there. What it can’t tell you is whether going there is a good idea in the first place.

The U.S. News and World Report rankings are like a GPS that’s been programmed with the wrong destination. The goal of diets, according to their criteria, is to have low calories, low fat, plenty of carbs, and not much saturated fat or cholesterol. Then, like the GPS, they plug each diet into those criteria and determine which diet is “best” — i.e., which is lowest in calories, fat, cholesterol, saturated fat, and all the usual targets of 1950s nutrition philosophy. If the diet in question meets those criteria — as well as a few other boilerplate notions like being “balanced” — it will get high marks.

The U.S. News and World Report diet rankings are useless because the criteria they use to evaluate diets are hopelessly, painfully out of date.

The report doesn’t consider GMO, because they “believe” there’s absolutely no difference between GMO food and non-GMO food. They don’t consider potentially inflammatory ingredients like gluten. They certainly don’t look at whether food is organic or not, nor do they seem to care about the ridiculous number of chemicals and processing agents found in the frozen food programs of top-ranking diets like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

The ratings downgrade the Atkins Diet “health” score because — you guessed it — the diet’s higher in saturated fat and lower in carbohydrates. Those two facts, which I consider positives, get low marks on the U.S. News and World Report rating system. Atkins’ low ranking for “health” says more about the rating system than it does about the diet.

In short, the diet ratings are silly. They tell us nothing we didn’t know before, which is that the dietary establishment continues to push foods that make us sick, fat, tired, and depressed — diets filled with low-fat junk and processed foods, heavy on the grains and low on salt. When a diet doesn’t embrace that philosophy, it doesn’t get high rankings in surveys like this.

I strongly suggest you ignore the ratings of diets from magazines like U.S. News and World Report, Consumer Reports, or any other organization that still rates diets based on outdated criteria.  I suggest, instead, that you continue to get your information on these diets from experts you respect. At the very least, get your info from people who aren’t judging diets by outdated metrics.

JONNY BOWDEN, PHD, CNS, is a board-certified nutritionist, the creator of the best-selling internet weight loss program, Metabolic Factor, and the author of 15 books including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Living Low Carb, and The Great Cholesterol Myth. His no-nonsense, myth-busting approach has made him a popular guest on television (Dr. Oz, the Doctors, ABC-TV, MSNBC-TV, CNN, CBS-TV, CBN, Fox News, NBC-TV and virtually every morning show in America), and a popular speaker all over the world. Dr. Jonny has written or contributed to articles in The New York Times, Forbes, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair Online, Men's Heath, Prevention, and dozens of other print and online publications. He writes the popular monthly column, "Ask Dr. Jonny" for Clean Eating Magazine.