Study author and clinical psychologist Sherry Pagoto said there's no cut-off point in the AHEI scale below which a diet could be definitively considered heart unhealthy. But other studies have ranked low-quality diets in populations at risk for heart disease around the 30-point mark.
"We were most surprised by the fact that the MyPyramid wasn't even in the top three. We figured that this would be a model diet because it is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary recommendations," Pagoto said.
However, coming in last doesn't mean a diet is of low quality, she said. All of the diets have the potential to be healthy and have been shown in a variety of studies to result in weight loss, which is itself important to improving heart health. Additionally, coming in first does not mean the diet plan is ideal for everyone, she added.
"While the Ornish plan was on top, it's a hard one for most people to follow," Pagoto said. The Ornish plan is a very low-fat, low-calorie, primarily vegetarian diet developed for people who have survived heart attacks, she explained.
In her work counseling clients at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Weight Center, Pagoto said she has learned that it's important for people to be able to stick to the diet plan they choose.
"There is more than one element of a diet to consider," she said.
People with a personal or family history of heart disease should consider the results of this study as a guide when choosing a diet plan, Pagoto said. But they should also think about their food preferences. For example, people who really like carbohydrates would do better with Weight Watchers than with Atkins, regardless of this ranking system, sh
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