Whichever one helps them lose weight, says Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor at consumer website Consumer Reports Health.
“The best diet is the one you can stay on,” she says.
But Consumer Reports, using results from published clinical trials, has concluded that the Jenny Craig diet program easily surpasses all others in success rates.
The Jenny Craig diet combines counseling with a portion-controlled regimen of premade foods supplemented by home-cooked side dishes. In a 332-person, two-year study of the program published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 92 percent of participants stuck with the diet for two years and shaved off an average 8 percent of their weight.
But Metcalf is quick to point out that Jenny Craig might not be ideal for everyone.
Q: What’s your take on successful diets?
A: There is no perfect diet for everybody. Our ratings (in the June issue of Consumer Reports) are based on the average results people get, according to published studies. There are a million diets out there. We don’t let a diet get into our ratings unless someone has done a clinical trial and statisticians report the results are meaningful.
Q: In your June issue, you rate Weight Watchers third. It used to be first?
A: Right. Frankly, I wish more diet programs conducted clinical trials.
The current guides show Jenny Craig with an overall score of 85 points, based on adherence to nutritional guidelines and the result of published randomized clinical studies. But not everyone likes the idea of eating prepackaged meals.
Then we have Slim-Fast with an overall score of 83; Weight Watchers, 57; the Zone diet, 54; Ornish, 48; Atkins, 48.
Q: This is your third diet evaluation. Any changes?
A: There is a much stronger emphasis today on reducing sodium.
Also, we are learning new things about calories. Some forms are more filling than others — like protein followed by high-fiber grains, fruits and vegetables. The big-name diets are putting this principle to work to help dieters shed pounds with fewer hunger pangs.
Q: Isn’t that the principle behind Volumetrics?
Other news: The 2010 edition of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines of Americans, used by Consumer Reports for the nutrition basis in this study, still says it is bad to eat 10 percent or more calories from saturated fat from meat and dairy products. That is why the Atkins diet ends up with only a “fair” nutrition score.
There also is evidence that refined carbohydrates promote weight gain and type 2 diabetes through their effects on blood sugar and insulin.
Consumer Reports says there is evidence that restricting carbohydrates can bring blood insulin levels down and help burn body fat, which in turn helps you eat fewer calories.
The magazine also noted a dieter might be better off replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat instead of carbs that turn to blood sugar quickly, such as white bread and potatoes.
Finally, Consumer Reports reminds dieters “not to discount the impact of a good emotional support system,” such as the Jenny Craig counselors. A menu planner, physical activity trackers and personal journals also are available at JennyCraig.com.
“Four years ago, when we last rated diets, the winner was the Volumetrics plan which is based on eating high-bulk, low-calorie food,” Metcalf says.
She says that is still the winning formula, as it is now part of the Jenny Craig brand. As for taste, she rated the Jenny Craig prepared food as “decent and better than its rival, Nutrisystem.”
(Jane Glenn Haas writes for The Orange County (Calif.) Register. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)