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Ranking the Diets

The experts rated the diets for short-term and long-term weight loss, how easy they are to follow, and safety and nutrition. They also considered how well each diet could help prevent and control diabetes and heart disease.

Cost was not a factor they looked at.

The experts' evaluations were converted to scores and then stars. One star was lowest, five highest.

Here are more details on the rankings for best overall and best weight loss diets.

Best Overall Diets

1. DASH diet (4.1 stars): The experts like its overall nutrition, safety, and ability to control or prevent diabetes and help heart health. See the plan here.

2. TLC diet (4 stars): The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet was created by the National Institutes of Health. Experts say it's good at promoting heart health. One downside: You do it yourself, and some people may miss the support provided by some commercial plans.

3. (tie) The Mayo Clinic diet, Mediterranean diet, and Weight Watchers (3.9 stars): Mayo is cited for its good nutrition and safety, as well as being ''a tool against diabetes." The Mediterranean Diet is called sensible. Weight Watchers ''surpassed other commercial diet plans in multiple areas," the experts say, ''including short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow."

Best Weight Loss Diets

1. Weight Watchers (3.8 stars): This popular diet assigns points for foods and includes a program to keep weight under control.

2. (tie) Jenny Craig, Biggest Loser, and Raw Food diets (3.5 stars): The Biggest Loser plan, from the TV show, is built around healthy food and regular exercise. Jenny Craig provides weekly one-on-one counseling sessions and has prepackaged, portion-controlled foods. The Raw Food Diet was cited for both short-term and long-term weight loss. Raw foods typically have fewer calories than other foods. The restrictive diet may not work for everyone, experts caution.

Rating the Newcomers

Three new diets added to the list this year didn’t fare so well:

The Fast diet (2.5 stars): On this plan, you eat normally for 5 days, then cut how much you eat to a quarter of that for 2 consecutive days.

The Acid-Alkaline diet (2.6 stars): You avoid acid-forming foods such as red meats.

The Spark Solution diet (3.3 stars): You exercise and cut back on calories. Experts were concerned that Spark’s detailed guidance is given only for the first 2 weeks.

Diekman reports receiving honoraria from advisory board work for the California Walnut Board, National Dairy Council, Aspartame Advisory Panel, and Facts Up Front.

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