The Zone diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate fad diet devised by biochemist Barry Sears. It specifies the consumption of calories from carbohydrates and protein in a specified ratio, recommending eating five times a day to create a sense of satiety that discourages overeating. Like other low-carbohydrate diets, the theories behind this diet are unproven and there is insufficient scientific evidence to determine if it is safe or effective.
One of the ideas on which the diet is based is that meals constructed to create a sense of satiety will discourage overeating. Also, like other low-carb diets, the glycemic index is used to classify carbohydrates. Both ideas are meant to promote weight loss via reduction in calories consumed, and avoid spikes in insulin release, thus supporting the maintenance of insulin sensitivity.
The Zone diet proposes that relatively narrow bell-shaped curve centered at 0.75 ratio between proteins and carbohydrates is essential to "balance the insulin to glucagon ratio, which purportedly affects eicosanoid metabolism and ultimately produces a cascade of biological events leading to a reduction in chronic disease risk, enhanced immunity, maximal physical and mental performance, increased longevity and permanent weight loss."
The diet advocates eating five times a day, with 3 meals and 2 snacks, and includes eating proteins, carbohydrates - those with a lower glycemic index are considered more favorable, and fats (monounsaturated fats are considered healthier) in a ratio of 30%-40%-30%. The hand is used as the mnemonic tool; five fingers for five times a day, with no more than five hours between meals. The size and thickness of the palm are used to measure protein while two big fists measures favorable carbohydrates and one fist unfavorable carbohydrates. There is a more complex scheme of "Zone blocks" and "mini blocks" that followers of the diet can use to determine the ratios of macronutrients consumed. Daily exercise is encouraged.
As of 2013, there were "no cross sectional or longitudinal studies examining the potential health merit of adopting a Zone Diet per se, [and] closely related peer-reviewed findings from scientific research cast strong doubt over the purported benefits of this diet. When properly evaluated, the theories and arguments of popular low carbohydrate diet books like the Zone rely on poorly controlled, non-peer-reviewed studies, anecdotes and non-science rhetoric."
- Bijlefeld M, Zoumbaris SK (2014). "Sears, Barry". Encyclopedia of Diet Fads: Understanding Science and Society (2nd ed.). ABC-CLIO. pp. 190–191. ISBN 978-1-61069-760-6.
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- Cheuvront SN The Zone Diet phenomenon: a closer look at the science behind the claims. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Feb;22(1):9-17. PMID 12569110
- DeBruyne L, Pinna K, Whitney E (2011). "Chapter 7: Nutrition in practice — Fad Diets". Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Cengage Learning. p. 209. ISBN 1-133-71550-8.
"a fad diet by any other name would still be a fad diet." And the names are legion: the Atkins Diet, the Cheater's Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Zone Diet. Year after year, "new and improved" diets appear ...
- Baron M. The Zone Diet. Health Care Food Nutr Focus. 2004 Oct;21(10):8-9, 11. PMID 15493380