What It Is: The Atkins Diet was first popularized in 1972, with the release of the book "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution." Controversial from the start, the diet is built around the idea that consuming too many carbohydrates is the main factor behind overweight and obesity. Therefore, by drastically reducing the intake of carbohydrates and shifting over to a diet high in protein in fat, a person can force his or her body to burn stored fat more efficiently.
The Atkins diet gained momentum at the beginning of the decade, and diet authors have published a host of new books aimed at further delving into the benefits of a low-carb approach to weight loss.
Ikeda: "Is this old thing still around? If it worked, obesity would no longer be a problem in this country, since a good percentage of the population has tried it."
Katz: "I think this is a silly diet at odds with health. It restricts choice very severely, which in turn restricts calories severely -- so it, of course, produces short-term weight loss. But cutting out 'carbs' long term makes no sense; everything from lollipops to lentils is a 'carb,' so this diet throws out the baby with the bathwater."
Ayoob: "This is the original 'Full-Fat Diet.' Isn't America over this one yet? For people who plan to ditch their resolutions, this diet is for them -- people don't tend to stay with it very long. Just understand that when you finally let go of this diet, you'll have to go for something more realistic and not so limiting. Why not do that right from the start?"
What It Is: In its purest form, the Mediterranean diet is designed to emulate the food choices of those who live in areas on the Mediterranean Sea, such as in Italy and Southern France. A true Mediterranean diet is predominantly plant-based, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil. It also incorporates some cheese, yogurt, fresh fish and poultry, with very little red meat.
Most nutrition experts caution that the Italian fare served at many Italian restaurants in the U.S. -- which is heavy in cheese, meat and fat -- should not be confused with a Mediterranean diet.
Ayoob: "This diet is famous for olive oil. Olive oil is great and it's heart-healthy, but it has as many calories as any other oil, even the less healthy ones. As such, the more olive oil you eat, the smaller your other portions are going to be. It's true that fat helps you feel satisfied, and this diet also focuses on lots of fruits and veggies, but it can be a little low in calcium, as dairy is not a huge part of the Mediterranean diet. I'd modify it to include low-fat milk."
Ikeda: "In looking at the [figures] below, one has to conclude that eating the way the French and Italians do might be quite beneficial."
Percentage of people classified as obese:
USA: Female = 34 percent; Male = 27.7 percent
Italy: Female = 9.9 percent; Male = 9.5 percent
France: Female = 7.0 percent; Male = 8.0 percent