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Diet Plans' Heart Health Compared

Study Rates Ornish Diet Best for Heart; South Beach Author Cries Foul

First Place Goes to Ornish Diet continued...

"It's pretty shoddy stuff," Agatston tells WebMD. "It is discouraging to say they base the paper on these principles of a heart-healthy diet that we were the first to emphasize in a popular book."

Agatston says there are thousands of South Beach Diet recipes and meal plans, and that it's unfair for Ma and colleagues to rate his entire diet on the basis of a single week's menu.

But what really irritates him, he says, is that the researchers give him a low ranking even though he stresses the same principles they do.

"To their credit, they do lay out good dietary principles for heart health -- but we were the first popular book to do that," Agatston says. "I am a cardiologist. For some nutritionists to plug something into a computer and say we are not heart healthy is a little bit silly. If they read my book, I am sure they'd agree."

Healthy Diet vs. Weight Loss Diet

Agatston, Ornish, and Ma all agree that the whole point of losing weight is to improve your health.

"It is not just about losing weight. The idea is to lose weight in a way that is helpful, not harmful," Ornish says. "If all you want to do is to lose weight, you can do it by smoking cigarettes or by going on amphetamines."

Ma says the point of the study is not to tell people to avoid any diet. Instead, he says people who want to lose weight should find a diet that works for them -- and then work with a nutritionist to gradually make heart-healthy changes.

"They can start with the Atkins Diet if they want to, but then they must make modifications and gradually add the good carbs and exchange bad fats for good fats," Ma says. "If people start out with a diet that they fail to follow, they will not lose weight -- and that is no good."

Ma and colleagues report their findings in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

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