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The Best Years in Life

Popular Diets Reviewed

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The Zone Diet

The Zone Diet by Barry Sears, PhD, is often labeled as another "low carbohydrate / high protein" diet. I beg to differ. (Low & high - as compared to what?)

The Zone Diet still has a higher carbohydrate component than protein - unlike either the Atkins Diet or the Scarsdale Medical Diet.

The label of The Zone Diet as a "low carbohydrate / high protein" diet comes from it's comparison against more conventional "healthy" diets, such as those based on the obsolescent "food pyramid".

The Zone Diet bases its calorific content on:

  • 40% carbohydrates
  • 30% proteins &
  • 30% fats

As compared to the more conventional "healthy" diets of around:

  • 70% carbohydrates
  • 15% proteins &
  • 15% fats

The Zone Diet is not obsessed with weight loss. In fact, weight loss is a secondary consideration, flowing on as a result of the primary concern of maximising health. Still, the weight loss and optimisation effect is undeniable, with many professional and elite athletes now training and improving their performances by following this diet. Still, probably the most famous "face" of The Zone Diet comes from the weight-obsessed world of show business, where Jennifer Aniston is well known to be a dedicated adherant.

Dr. Barry Sears PhD is a renown biochemist. He developed and holds the patents on many of the most used patents in the world today for intravenous cancer drug delivery. His original PhD thesis and much of his subsequent research work has been in the field of lipids (fats). Being from a family where the male members were prone to early deaths due to heart disease, he concentrated his research efforts into finding pharmacological patentable medicines to prevent and reverse heart diseases - and his own life.

In 1982, the Nobel Prize ifor Physiology and Medicine was awarded to two Stockholm scientists for their research work on the previously little known and little understood human hormones called eicosanoids.

Dr. Barry Sears combined the knowledge of the Nobel Prize winning research with his own background and research into lipids, and, to cut a long story short, found that the answers he was looking for in regards to optimising health and body weight. The answers he discovered, though, were not patentable medications. He discovered dietary balance as being the key to optimum health and weight management.

Reading "Enter The Zone" and his subsequent books such as "Mastering The Zone" is hard work. Like the scientist that he is, he works hard at explaining the science behind his diet theories. Difficult as that will be for most 'normal' people to follow, it is refreshing to see a best-selling diet book present a solid scientific basis justifying its claims.

There are three mentionable downsides to The Zone Diet:

  1. As mentioned above, the scientific explanations are beyond the understanding of most people. This will lead most people to by-pass the "tough stuff" and just go straight to the easy to follow diet itself, withou really comprehending the reasons and importance of the program details.
  2. It involves weighing of food products to measure precise balances between carbohydrates, proteins and fats. That has long been the drawback of many diets, as only the most highly motivated of people will stick to a diet where "weights and measures" are needed.
  3. There is very little discussion of psychological & emotional issues involved in weight loss. (In its defence on this point, the health effects discussed and claimed include improved mental function, including mental alterness, stress control and overcoming depression via the management of eicosanoid hormones.)

The major pluses for The Zone Diet are:

  1. Very flexible in terms of food choices and plenty of available Zone Diet recipes. Within each category of food (carbohydrate, protein or fats), a wide range of suitable selections are given that may be swapped or chosen. Unlike the rigidity of Scarsdale, the food choices and alternatives of The Zone Diet will encourage long term adherence.
  2. It is not a "one size fits all" diet. A formula is given depending on your body mass to determine your appropriate serving sizes.
  3. It is probably the first major popular diet to be based upon an understanding of human hormone functions and the hormonal effects of food. (Other diets such as Atkins and Scarsdale discuss insulin - as does Sears, but Sears goes much further covering other hormones.)
  4. Exercise is encouraged, and explained in a relatively straightforward way. It explains the difference between aerobic and anareobic exercise, and discusses how exercise is a necessary component for invoking the beneficial hormonal effects promoted by the Zone diet.
  5. The overall and primary emphasis is on health, not merely on weight loss. It promotes weight loss / management as a consequence of the emphasis on health.

There is no "perfect" obesity or weight management diet plan.

The question that must be answered is whether Dr. Barry Sears' The Zone Diet is a lifestyle and behavior modifying program with proven effective results for most people, sustainable in the long run, and with significant health benefits compared to "normal" or "average" western diets.

The answer is a slightly qualified "YES". The need to weigh and measure quantities is a drawback. Other than for that, The Zone is clearly a top pick of the commercially published diet books.

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