A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.
Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner Is Real Food
Researchers asked if one diet could be crowned best in terms of health outcomes. If diet is a set of rigid principles, the answer is a decisive no. In terms of broader guidelines, it’s a decisive yes.
Scientific publisher Annual Reviews asked Katz to compare the medical evidence for and against every mainstream diet.
Katz and Yale colleague Stephanie Meller compare the major diets of the day: Low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets.
They conclude that no diet is clearly best, but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health.
Among the salient points of proven health benefits the researchers note, nutritionally-replete plant-based diets are supported by a wide array of favorable health outcomes, including fewer cancers and less heart disease. These diets ideally included not just fruits and vegetables, but whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Katz and Meller found “no decisive evidence” that low-fat diets are better than diets high in healthful fats, like the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean diet, which is additionally defined by high intake of fiber, moderate alcohol and meat intake, antioxidants, and polyphenols, does have favorable effects on heart disease, cancer risk, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and “is potentially associated with defense against neurodegenerative disease and preservation of cognitive function, reduced inflammation, and defense against asthma.”
They also found carbohydrate-selective diets to be better than categorically low-carbohydrate diets, in that incorporating whole grains is associated with lower risks for cancers and better control of body weight.
“The evidence that with knowledge already at our disposal, we could eliminate 80 percent of chronic disease is the basis for everything I do,” Katz said.
March 24, 2014