American Heart Association Low Ranks Popular Diets for Heart Health

American Heart Association Low Ranks Popular Diets for Heart Health

The American Heart Association recently released a scientific statement that ranked the top 10 popular diets based on adherence to its 2021 dietary guidelines. The organization gave a low ranking to several diets that claimed to be good for the heart. Christopher Gardner, PhD, of Stanford University in California, who chaired the committee that wrote the statement published in Circulation, noted that the diets were scored based on how they were intended to be followed, rather than how people often eat when on the diets.


The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet came out on top of the list with a perfect score on the 100-point scale. Other diets in the top tier with scores above 85 were the Mediterranean, pescatarian, and vegetarian (including dairy, eggs, or both) diets. On the other hand, the paleolithic (paleo) and very low carbohydrate diets, such as the ketogenic (keto) and Atkins diets, ranked at the bottom of the list.

Reasons for Low Ranking

According to Gardner, the diets were not aligned with the American Heart Association’s dietary guidance. He added that these diets are highly restrictive and difficult for most people to stick to in the long term. While they may lead to short-term benefits and substantial weight loss, they are not sustainable. A practical perspective requires a diet that is effective at helping an individual maintain weight loss goals.

Other Rankings

The rankings match fairly closely with the U.S. News & World Report “Best Diets” rankings over the past several years, which have consistently put the Mediterranean and DASH diets in the top slots both overall and for heart health. Vegan and low-fat diets were ranked in the middle, with scores of 78 out of 100. While there’s potential for both diets to support optimal cardiovascular health, they also present challenges in that regard, the AHA statement noted.


The American Heart Association statement emphasized that each of the popular diets they ranked has healthier and less healthy ways to follow them. The rankings didn’t consider any diets aimed specifically at managing gastrointestinal conditions or diseases, allergies, or intolerances, nor did it look at those designed to be followed short term or with commercial programs. The statement suggested that providing patients resources like nutrition education may help them adopt healthy patterns as intended.


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