Friday, November 2, 2007



What is the Zone? You have probably heard many things about it. Let me first say what the Zone is not. It is not a high-protein diet, and it is not a high-fat diet, and it is not a high-carbohydrate diet. It is, however, about moderation and balance. Specifically, it's about hormonal balance-keeping hormonal responses (and in particular, the hormone insulin) generated by the food you cat within a zone: not too high, not too low. If insulin levels are too high, you can never access stored body fat for energy. If insulin levels are too low, your cells will starve to death. In essence, when you follow the Zone Diet you are treating food as if it were a drug, giving food the same respect that you would give any prescription drug. This is a revolutionary concept, and this is why the Zone is controversial. When viewed through this prism, food can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy; you just have to know how to play by the hormonal rules that haven't changed in 40 million years and are unlikely to change tomorrow.


You need the Zone, because your life depends on it. The Zone is about hormonal thinking and how the food you eat controls very powerful hormones that are often hundreds of times more powerful than most prescription drugs. Hormones, which are the chemical messengers of your body, direct every one of your body's vital systems as they can help your body move toward illness and disease or redirect your body towards health. When they are functioning at their best, they can help your body achieve a state of wellness and optimal performance. This is what the ZoneDiet is all about. Once you begin to think about food hormonally, mean that food has to taste like a drug, but it does mean that it's important to realize that food can have adverse hormonal side effects, such as the overproduction of insulin.

Hormonal thinking is very different than caloric thinking. Caloric thinking can be summarized by this philosophy: "if no fat touches my lips, then no fat reaches my hips." This type of thinking has been the nutritional mantra in America for the past 15 years. During this time, fat has been made to be the villain of our society. Yet in that same 15-year period we have actually been eating less fat than ever before and, in the process, have become the fattest people on the face of the earth (1). What went wrong? Maybe fat is not the demon we have been told. This is why more and more scientists are voicing their doubts in prestigious journals like the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997:

"Replacement of fat by carbohydrate has not been shown to reduce the risk of coronary disease…" (2)

"Beneficial effects of high-carbohydrate diets on the risk of cancer or body weight have also not been substantiated…" (2)

Or other medical researchers who have stated:

"The more insulin-resistant the individual, the greater the likelihood that low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets will increase the risk factors for ischemic heart disease." (3)

How could this be if we have been told that eating a high-carbohydrate diet is the key to better health? In essence, these respected scientists are saying the emperor (i.e., the low-fat diet, high-carbohydrate diet) has no clothes. Americans have been sold a pig in a poke for the last 15 years with the expectation that low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets would be the panacea for our health and wellness. The hormonal thinking behind the Zone explains why this hasn't happened. In fact, the general state of health in America is worse now than it was 15 years ago. Fortunately, there is a solution to this health crisis because it can be reversed with the Zone Diet.


If dietary fat alone doesn't make you fat (besides not causing heart disease and cancer), then what does? The answer is excess levels of the hormone insulin. The power of the Zone is that this hormone can be controlled by the diet. The Zone is about keeping insulin in a range or zone-not too high, not too low. Not only can keeping insulin in a tight zone prevent you from gaining weight and help you to lose it, but also maintaining insulin in this same zone produces the following benefits:

• Thinking better

• Performing better

• Looking better

• Living better (and longer)

Who doesn't want to experience these benefits? Let's take them one by one.

Thinking Better

Maintaining peak mental acuity is simply a consequence of maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is the metabolic fuel your brain uses to maintain your mental activity. If blood sugar levels drop, then brain function (and your thinking ability) becomes compromised since your brain is running on empty. This is known as low blood sugar. As an example, think about how you feel three hours after eating a big pasta meal. You can barely keep your eyes open, and you find yourself in a dense mental fog. That's an example of low blood sugar. Should your blood sugar levels drop even lower, the brain will actually shut down and go into a coma. This commonly occurs with diabetics who inject too much insulin. Before that drastic step happens, most people will reach for some high-carbohydrate snack that will temporarily increase blood sugar levels, but this simply starts this vicious cycle over again.

What controls your blood sugar levels? It is the amount of insulin in the bloodstream. Insulin is a storage hormone. It tells your body to drive incoming macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) into their respective sites for storage so that they can be used at some time in the future. Too much insulin, and you drive down the levels of blood sugar by sending it to the liver and muscles for storage. This is great for those organs, but not too good for the brain. When blood sugar levels drop, clear and concise thought becomes more difficult. I don't care how many Ph.D.'s you have, once low blood sugar sets in, your mental capacity drops like a stone. On the other hand, if you can maintain insulin in the Zone, then you stabilize blood sugar levels, giving you peak mental acuity for four to six hours after your last Zone meal. That's the good news. The bad news…

Zone Food Blocks: The Quick and Easy, Mix-and-Match Counter for Staying in the Zone
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble


Interested in the Zone Diet? Visit the Official site of The Zone Diet

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