Earlier in January, U.S. News & World Report issued its annual ranking of the best diets to follow for several different goals and health conditions. As you may have heard by now, the Paleo diet was ranked last (tied with the Dukan Diet) in the “Best Diet Overall” category of the 32 diets they reviewed. But just how reliable are these rankings? And how seriously should you take them?
To find out, let’s see what research and clinical experience really say about the Paleo diet according to the seven criteria used by U.S. News & World Report in their rankings.
#1: How easy it is to follow
Experts faulted the Paleo diet because “duplicating such a regimen in modern times would be difficult.” I’m not sure whether these experts were simply expressing their personal opinion, or whether they asked others to weigh in. Though U.S. News & World Report characterized the Paleo diet as “very lean, pure meats, and wild vegetables,” that is not an accurate portrayal.
Most Paleo experts advocate a wide range of foods, including meats (not exclusively lean), fish, nonstarchy vegetables, starchy plants like sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds, and even modest amounts of “non-Paleo” foods like full-fat dairy, potatoes, dark chocolate, and alcohol when they are well tolerated.
This explains why many of my patients are able to lose weight effortlessly with Paleo. In fact, many of them were successful with Paleo despite failing with numerous other diets in the past.
#2: Short-term effectiveness for weight loss
Setting aside the mountains of anecdotal evidence available to anyone who spends even a few minutes searching on Google, and the collective experience of physicians, other health care practitioners, personal trainers, and CrossFit gyms around the world successfully using Paleo as a weight loss tool, there are randomized, controlled trials—the gold-standard of scientific evidence—demonstrating that Paleo is effective for short-term weight loss.
What’s more, this weight loss is often achieved without restricting calories or limiting carbohydrates or fat, and while eating meals with a variety of nutritious and delicious foods.
#3: Long-term effectiveness for weight loss
Paleo is not a diet—it’s a holistic approach to eating (and living) in closer harmony with our evolutionary heritage. It’s more sustainable than most weight loss diets because it features a wide variety of real foods that most people enjoy eating.
Several lines of evidence suggest that Paleo is successful for long-term weight loss: