Star ratings reflect scores of 1 to 5 assigned to the South Beach diet in seven categories by nutritionists, specialists in diabetes and heart disease, and other diet experts on a ratings panel assembled by U.S. News. (See our Best Diets methodology.) Experts were impressed with the diet’s ability to deliver short-term weight loss—8 to 13 pounds a week in some cases. But keeping that weight off long term is problematic, and South Beach didn't wow our experts for heart health, despite being created by a preventive cardiologist. Below, ratings in all categories and how the experts’ opinions broke down.
Short-Term Weight Loss
This is the category in which South Beach earned its highest score, edging out many of the ranked diets. “It offers the possibility of kick-starting a new diet by providing quick weight loss, which is very motivating,” according to one expert.
Long-Term Weight Loss
South Beach has lots of rules and can seem awfully restrictive at first—two reasons experts doubted that most people can stay on it long enough to keep off lost weight for at least two years.
Easy to Follow
Each new South Beach phase comes with a list of recommended and forbidden foods to think about, making the chances of sticking to the diet modest at best. Some experts describe the diet as “restrictive and difficult.”
Compared to the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, South Beach is long on fat in phase 1, short on carbs during phases 1 and 2, and deficient in potassium throughout. Those weaknesses worried experts somewhat.
There are no indications of serious side effects, but children and pregnant women are advised not to participate. And the high amount of protein may not be safe for people with kidney problems, according to experts.
The experts were unimpressed. No good evidence suggests that the diet helps prevent or manage diabetes. “Any potential prevention effect will likely come as a consequence of weight loss,” according to one panelist.
For Heart Health
South Beach is touted as a way to improve cholesterol and avoid heart disease, but those claims aren’t soundly buttressed by research, and the panel members said the diet should not be expected to have a strong effect on heart health.
Last updated by Angela Haupt | January 02, 2013
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