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American Heart Association Releases Ranking of Heart-Healthy Diets: DASH Takes Top Spot, Keto and Paleo Diets Deemed Harmful

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released a ranking of the best heart-healthy diets, with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan taking the top spot. The AHA evaluated popular diets based on their alignment with the organisation's dietary guidance for achieving good cardiometabolic health. The DASH-style diet is designed to treat or limit high blood pressure and is low in salt, added sugar, tropical oil, alcohol and processed foods, while being rich in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.[0] Protein mostly comes from plant sources, such as legumes, beans, or nuts, along with fish or seafood, lean poultry and meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.[1] The Mediterranean diet, vegetarian-style/pescatarian, vegetarian-style/Ovo/Lacto, and vegetarian-style/vegan diets also received high scores.[2]

In contrast, the AHA found that the keto and paleo diets were detrimental to heart health, as they eliminated or severely restricted many of the foods recommended by the organisation.[0] These diets were given low marks for shunning food groups the AHA recommends and promoting foods that the AHA discourages people from eating in high amounts.[0] Keto and paleo diets encourage the consumption of red meat and other high-fat foods, which can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease due to their high saturated fat content. Additionally, these diets are high in fat without limiting saturated fat, and they reduce fibre intake, which is associated with lower risk of disease, healthy blood sugar, and reduced cholesterol.

The AHA statement cautioned against relying on commercial dietary programs, such as Weight Watchers or Noom, short-term diets intended to be followed for less than 12 weeks, practices such as intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating, or diets designed to manage non-cardiovascular conditions.[3] The statement aimed to provide a tool for clinicians and the public to understand which diets promote good cardiometabolic health.[4]

Lead author Christopher Gardner commented that the proliferation of different, popular dietary patterns in recent years has led to critical levels of misinformation about heart-healthy eating on social media.[5] Gardner advised that a diet that is effective at helping an individual maintain weight-loss goals, from a practical perspective, needs to be sustainable.[6] Tier four diets, such as the paleo and very low-carbohydrate/ketogenic diets, scored less than 55, as they are highly restrictive and difficult for most people to stick with long-term.[7] “While there will likely be short-term benefits and substantial weight loss, it isn't sustainable,” Gardner said.[5]

0. “The Best Diets for Heart Health, According to Experts” Prevention Magazine, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.prevention.com/health/a43724381/best-heart-health-diets-aha/

1. “Heart healthy diets reduce heart disease risk, increase healthy weight loss” WXYZ 7 Action News Detroit, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.wxyz.com/news/heart-healthy-diets-reduce-heart-disease-risk-increase-healthy-weight-loss

2. “10 popular diets scored for heart-healthy elements; some need improvement” American Heart Association, 27 Apr. 2023, https://newsroom.heart.org/news/10-popular-diets-scored-for-heart-healthy-elements-some-need-improvement

3. “Here's how 10 popular diets scored for heart health” American Heart Association News, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2023/04/27/heres-how-10-popular-diets-scored-for-heart-health

4. “American Heart Association's best diets for heart health” WJXT News4JAX , 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.news4jax.com/video/morning-show/2023/04/27/american-heart-associations-best-diets-for-heart-health/

5. “Scientists rate best and worst celebrity diets – from Kim Kardashian’s keto to Harry Styles’ pesca…” The Sun, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.thesun.co.uk/health/22181552/scientists-rate-popular-celeb-diets-best-worst

6. “Not All Diets Measure Up for Protecting the Heart: AHA” TCTMD, 28 Apr. 2023, https://www.tctmd.com/news/not-all-diets-measure-protecting-heart-aha

7. “Think Keto Works The Best For You? The Heart May Disagree” The Quint FIT, 23 Apr. 2023, https://www.thequint.com/fit/keto-diet-high-cholesterol-and-cardiovascular-health

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