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Diet Review: The Zone Diet

About the Zone Diet

Celebrities like Madonna, Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston swear by the results of the Zone Diet (created by Barry Sears, PhD.). The Zone Diet contains 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat and is also known as the 40-30-30 plan. The Zone Diet works on the premise that 100,000 years ago, we were meat eaters and our bodies was designed to handle the demands of a meat-based diet. As we have evolved, more carbohydrates have been introduced into our daily diet, causing an imbalance. The reason for our extra weight could be attributed to the many grains and starches in our diet (pasta, rice, breads, and potatoes). The Zone Diet’s strategy calls for a return to the diets of our ancestors where meat, fruits and vegetables are the main dietary items.

How Does The Zone Diet Work?
The Zone Diet works by working the right ratio of carbohydrates to proteins and fats in order to control the insulin in the bloodstream. Too much of the hormone (insulin) can increase fat storage and inflammation in the body (conditions that are associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease). Sears asserts that by using the Zone Diet you are actually optimising the body’s metabolic function. Through the regulation of blood sugar, you allow your body to burn excess body fat.

The Zone Diet does not actually prohibit you from any particular food group; however food with high fat and carbohydrates such as grains, starches, and pastas should be avoided. Fruits and vegetables are the preferred source of carbs and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil, almonds, avocados) are the ideal choice of fats. The Zone Diet claims to use food as a drug for overall good health, weight loss and prevention or management of heart disease and diabetes.

Sears says that you can test to see whether you are ‘hormonally’ correct by eating following the Zone diet and see how you feel four hours later. To simplify the Zone Diet, fill one-third of a plate with low-fat protein, and then two-thirds with fruits and vegetables.

The Debate on the Zone Diet
The Zone Diet has neither been rejected nor endorsed by health organisations. Some health experts see some elements of the Zone Diet as favourable, especially the low-fat content. The ADA (American Dietetic Association) sees the Zone Diet as just another fad diet. Some health experts argue that there are safer diets such as the ‘5 A Day’ program (which encourage people to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables a day).

The Zone Diet: For:

  • The Zone Diet features good amounts of fruits and low starch vegetables and is low in saturated fats;
  • Restricts low nutrition carbohydrates; and
  • If followed correctly allows for steady weight loss.

The Zone Diet: Against

  • Complicated and scientific;
  • Restricts calorie intake means it’s hard to stay on
  • Eliminates some essential vitamins and minerals found in certain founds;
  • Expensive to follow
  • Time consuming and inconvenient

Advocates of the Zone Diet
Advocates for the Zone Diet include celebrities and also some health experts who say that the Zone’s recommendations don’t stray far from the USDA’s (United States Dietary Association) dietary guidelines. Critics have argued that the Zone Diet has flawed ratios but Sears argues that the Zone diet is really a low glycemic-load diet that has adequate protein. Sears also defends the criticism that Zone Diet is too complicated. He believes this is a misconception because his first book on the Zone Diet was targeted to cardiologists who were more scientifically-oriented.

Critics of the Zone Diet
The AHA (American Heart Association) classifies the Zone Diet as high protein and does not recommend the Zone Diet for weight loss. They assert that the Zone Diet has not been proven effective in the long term for weight loss. They issued an official recommendation warning against diets like the Zone Diet. They believe that the Zone Diet is hazardous as it restricts the intake of essential vitamins and minerals present in certain foods. They are concerned that the protein ratio in the Zone diet is too high even if the minimal fat ratio is good. Robert H. Ecker M.D of the A.H.A., finds the Zone Diet’s theory on insulin flawed and argues that there is no scientific proof that the hormone insulin plays a big role in weight regulation.