The Zone Diet:
Control Insulin; Stop Inflammation

The Zone Diet is the brainchild of Barry Sears, a biochemist who developed his plan after observing that the hormone insulin plays a key role in regulating inflammation.

Sears' approach is relatively unique among low-carb diet plans. He advocates eating low-fat proteins, "good" fats, and foods low on the Glycemic Index. The system theoretically encourages the body to produce important hormones called eicosanoids.

Sears' “Zone” refers to what he argues is the ideal ratio of fats to proteins to carbohydrates people should eat in their diets. He defines this target range as:

  • 40% carbs
  • 30% proteins
  • 30% fats

The Zone theory postulates that when we eat carbohydrates, we manufacture insulin in response; too much insulin causes inflammation and fat gain and all sorts of other damage to tissues. When we eat protein, however, we release glucagon, which releases stored carbohydrates in the liver and thus prevents inflammation. When insulin, glucagon, and eicosanoid production is in balance, then you're in "The Zone."

Sears prescribes his diet to help arrest the course of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other conditions.

Zone Blocks

The Zone employs a measuring system called Zone Blocks to guide the weight loss process: these blocks are portions that dieters may consume every day based on their energy needs, gender, metabolic health, and other factors. An average woman, for instance, might be allocated 11 blocks per day; whereas an average man might be allowed 15. If you exercise more frequently or support a high metabolism, you can have more blocks.

The Zone Diet is not nearly as carb-restrictive as other plans (notably the early phases of the South Beach Diet and the Atkins Diet). But many of the biochemical principles undergirding this plan will be familiar to students of the low carb approach: for instance, the diet hammers home the notion that insulin production drives weight gain.

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