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Zone Living

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dave Schreck
on September 09, 2015


Candy bars have almost the same protein-to-carbohydrate ratio as some vegetarian diets. Surely that doesn't mean you should be eating Snickers bars all day, right? Here's what the science tells you, and how such a diet impacts your wellness.


In the mid ‘80s I was a part-time vegetarian. Sounds impressive but was there such a dietary classification? Yes. Today it’s called a flexitarian diet. You’re a vegetarian most of the time but have the option of enjoying a burger or steak once in a while. I wonder if that upsets the real vegetarians and could there be a part-time vegan?


I heard the part-time vegetarian description when I was managing a restaurant in Boston. The patron said, “I’m a vegetarian. No steak for me. I’ll have the chicken.” I was impressed because at that time I was studying the dietary philosophies of Bernard Jensen, Paul Bragg, Herbert Sheldon and Ann Wigmore, all pioneers in America’s wellness movement. I even volunteered at a renowned health clinic at the same time I worked at an establishment that served alcohol and grilled meats!


Even though I worked in a steakhouse, I consumed little meat because my focus was on grains, beans, starches and salads. After all that’s what all the experts were recommending. Plus, I needed all those carbs for my triathlon training. The restaurant had an impressive salad bar, and before our daily opening, we had a staff meal that included a prepared dinner. I’d have two thick slices of organic Baldwin Hill Sour Dough Bread grilled with butter, a large baked Idaho potato piled high with sour cream and chives, a big bowl of pasta and a large salad drenched in blue cheese dressing. I figured that on some days I easily consumed the equivalent of 10 candy bars worth of carbohydrates in one meal! Interestingly, in his 1995 book, “The Zone,” Dr. Sears offered a chart (figure 7- 6) that compared typical candy bars demonstrating that they (Snickers) had almost the same protein-to-carbohydrate ratio as some vegetarian diets. He went on to say “many people following high-carbohydrate diets might just as well be eating candy bars.” Fortunately, I met Dr. Sears and became a believer in a more balanced diet with lean proteins and colorful non-starchy vegetables.


In 1980 (15 years before the Zone) I didn’t realize that my stomach did more than churn out food for digestion. I figured since I was working out two hours daily, I had a blast furnace for a stomach, however, I now realize it was basically a vat of acid breaking all food into its basic components for absorption into the bloodstream. From that perspective one Snickers bar has the same amount of carbohydrate as two ounces of pasta. Most people would not eat four Snickers bars at one sitting, but they would eat 8 ounces of pasta. The stomach can’t tell the difference. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin you produce; and the more insulin you produce, the more cellular inflammation you produce, and for many the fatter, dumber (think dementia) and sicker (think diabetes) you become. It’s a vicious cycle.


In 2000 Dr. Sears wrote a book for vegetarians called “The Soy Zone.” He discussed how a hormonally balanced vegetarian-based diet can reduce the risk factors of chronic disease, i.e., heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and the serious problems associated with many starch-based (grains, rice, beans, pasta) vegetarian diets. Dr. Sears believes that a protein-adequate diet, utilizing sustainable proteins like those in the Zone, such as Zone PastaRx, offers the best hormonal control for reducing the risk factors associated with chronic disease.


He also states, “Traditional vegetarian diets, including raw foods, rely heavily on grains and starches with relatively little protein. These diets are hormonally unbalanced. You need a balance: Protein stimulates glucagon and carbohydrates release insulin. Eating a diet based solely on carbohydrates causes insulin levels to soar, and many find themselves increasing cellular inflammation and gaining weight.”


There are so many diets: Vegetarian, flexitarian, pescetarian, polotarian, diets recommended by physicians (DASH, ketogenic, gluten free, Ornish), alkaline, blood type, food combining, Dr. Sears Zone Diet and many others. How do you know what is the healthiest diet for you? Dr. Sears says your blood doesn’t lie. If your bloodwork falls within ideal ranges, then whatever diet you’re on is working for you. He believes that the following tests are your best clinical markers for your future state of wellness. The tests are TG/HDL, AA/EPA and HbA1C. These are the tests you want to pass.


This first test (TG/HDL) is a standard test when you have blood work done by your primary physician. So get your test results and divide your triglycerides by your HDL cholesterol.


TG/HDL (triglycerides/high density lipoproteins)
This ratio will tell you if you have metabolic syndrome caused by insulin resistance; therefore, this becomes a surrogate marker of insulin. The higher your TG/HDL ratio, the higher your insulin levels, and the more cellular (silent) inflammation you may be generating. A test result above 3.5 indicates that your body is not using insulin effectively and increases your risk of developing pre-diabetes and then type 2 diabetes. The ideal range is less than 1.0. If this test score is elevated, you can lower it with the Zone Diet.


AA/EPA test (arachidonic acid/eicosapentanoic acid)
What if there was a test that could predict your future state of wellness, and what if you could improve your health within 30 days? Harvard Medical School has been using this test for the past 25 years, and it only requires a drop of blood. This is the gold standard for measuring your future wellness because it takes into account one's overall cellular inflammatory potential

Unfortunately, your physician has probably never heard of this test. Fortunately, you can get the test at a reasonable price from Zone Diagnostics. You simply prick your finger with a supplied lancet, put a drop of blood on the test strip and send it to the laboratory. The ideal range is between 1.5 and 3.0. Most people’s ratio is 15 and above! If you have a high test score, follow the Zone Diet to lower arachidonic acid (AA) and supplement with OmegaRx to raise the EPA.


It's called the Cellular Inflammation Test from Zone, and you can order one now.


Hb A1C (Hemoglobin A1c)
Also known as glycosylated hemoglobin, it measures your long-term blood-sugar control over the last 2-3 months. What levels of HbA1C are associated with longevity? 5.0% (percent of total red blood cells). Request from a physician or order an online home-test kit. The best way to reduce elevated HbA1C is to reduce grains and starches and consume lots of colorful, non-starchy vegetables.


Have you noticed a theme? It appears that the Zone program will help you pass these tests by controlling blood sugars, insulin levels and cellular inflammation. This will allow you to live a longer, healthier life.

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