The Zone Diet Analyzed
Celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, and Demi Moore have used The Zone diet to achieve their highly admired svelte figures. But is this diet that takes into account hormones and balancing acts just another fad diet or can it actually produce w
The American Heart Association (AHA) classifies The Zone as a
high-protein diet, and has issued an official recommendation warning against
such programs. The statement says such diets are not proven effective for
long-term weight loss, and could actually be hazardous to health because they
restrict intake of essential vitamins and minerals present in certain
Although The Zone does not ban any type of food, the
organization still frowns upon what it considers as the diet's flawed ratio.
"If the protein's too high -- even if the fat is just right -- the
carbohydrate [portion] must be too low in regards to evidence-based
recommendations," says Robert H. Eckel, MD, the AHA's chair of the Council
on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism.
For healthy living and weight loss, the AHA recommends that
daily calories come from 15% to 20% protein, 30% to 35% fat, and the rest from
carbohydrates (about 50%). Eckel says the AHA's guidelines are based on
scientific research, and are similar to those of other major health groups such
as the USDA, the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes
Association, and the American Cancer Society.
Sears questions the AHA's view of The Zone. "It's hard to
be a high-protein diet when you're actually consuming more carbohydrates,"
he says. "The Zone Diet is really a low glycemic-load diet that has
adequate protein. You're looking to balance protein to carbohydrates to get the
right balance of various hormonal parameters, particularly the hormone
Eckel finds the theory on insulin flawed, noting there's no
scientific proof that the hormone plays a big role in weight regulation. In
addition, he says Sears makes claims that are largely unproven about certain
types of fat and their relationship to heart disease.
In the Realm of Good Health
The Zone isn't necessarily shunned by health organizations, but
it isn't endorsed by many of them either. The AHA does recognize that the
program has some elements that are favorable, such as being a lower-fat diet,
compared with other high-protein, higher-fat plans.
On the other hand, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) sees
it as a moderate contender in a crowded field of weight loss plans. "The
Zone is closer to what most dietitians would recommend compared with some of
the higher protein diets," says Althea Zanecosky, RD, spokeswoman for the
For overall health and weight loss, Zanecosky says it might be
easier for some people to pay attention to some of the other major health
promotions, such as the "5 A Day" campaign, which encourages the daily
consumption of five servings of fruits and vegetables. The "3 A Day"
program does the same for dairy, a source of calcium. Then there's the AHA's
recommendation of at least two servings of fish per week.
These campaigns might be less complicated and less frustrating
than calorie counting, says Zanecosky.