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Men's Health

The Best Diets for Men

Atkins vs. Ornish, South Beach Diet vs. the Zone: Which weight loss plan really works?
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How Popular Diet Plans Score

What works? What doesn’t? With some 38,000 diet books in print and 2,500 new ones hitting the shelves every year -- not to mention magazines trumpeting the ultimate new fad diet in every monthly issue -- there’s plenty to choose from. Lately, even researchers have gotten into the act. The National Institutes of Health and university medical centers around the nation have spent many years and millions of dollars to test the Atkins diet versus the South Beach, the American Heart Association diet versus the Zone.

Along the way, there have been genuine surprises. The low-fat diet, widely endorsed by many official groups, hasn’t turned out to be as safe or effective as most experts thought. Some people do manage to lose weight on low-fat diets, but usually weight loss is fairly slow -- only a pound or two a month. And while levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) fall, studies show that levels of good cholesterol also drop. Many people on low fat diets also see a rise in triglycerides, an independent risk factor for heart disease.

To almost everyone’s surprise, low-carb/high-protein diets -- Atkin’s is the model -- have proved much safer and more effective than expected. Here was a diet that featured eggs and bacon and warned people away from bread. Yet study after study has shown that for people who are overweight or obese, high-protein/low-carb diets have real advantages.

"These diets push most of the numbers in the right direction," says Ronald Krauss, MD, a senior researcher at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. "Body weight and body fat go down, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol drop, while at the same time good cholesterol levels remain up. Low-carb diets also improve insulin sensitivity even without weight loss, so they offer better protection against diabetes."

The best news for dieters is that high-protein/low-carb dieters also shed pounds faster, on average, than low-fat dieters. In the latest of a string of studies that have pitted one popular diet against another, researchers at Stanford put the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diet to the test. After 12 months, volunteers on the Atkins diet had lost more weight -- twice as much -- as people on any of the other diets.

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