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Diet Review: The Zone Diet

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The Zone diet was created by Dr. Barry Sears, a biochemist, and introduced in his 1995 book The Zone: A Dietary Road Map.

The Zone Diet essentially relies on a few key elements, including hormone and caloric balance, and the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  Central to the diet is a specific carbohydrate/protein/fat ratio, which Sears advances as 40%/30%/30% to maintain the proper hormone balance, or what Dr. Sears refers to as “The Zone.” 

While in the Zone, insulin levels are neither too high, nor too low.  Insulin is a hormone that affects metabolism and other important systems of the body.  If insulin is high, the body will take up glucose, which is stored as glycogen, and used by the body as an energy source rather than stored fat.  If insulin is absent or low, glucose is not taken up by the body and stored fat is used as an energy source instead… which is preferred if trying to lose weight.

Sears maintains that eating the 40%/30%/30% ratio will achieve the proper hormone balance, and control the production of insulin.  Low-fat diets, he argues, increase the production of insulin, which causes the body to store more fat.  Additionally, Sears argues, an imbalance in eating leads to a negative reoccurring metabolic cycle as follows: the brain regulates metabolism.  The brain runs on glucose.  High insulin depletes glucose, essentially starving the brain.  This causes the metabolism to slow, and crave sweets.  If eaten, the sweets in turn negatively affect insulin by causing an increase in its levels, which depletes glucose… and starts the cycle over.  Sears maintains eating the proper ratio, including the consumption of 30% fat, interrupts this cycle and is essential for burning fat.  Monounsaturated fats, Sears contends, contribute to feeling full, as well as decrease carbohydrate absorption, which means lower insulin levels and less stored fat.