Low Carb: Zone Diet

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This is one of the most popular diets in recent years. As its discoverer, Barry Sears preaches, "the Zone is not a symbolic place, but a real physiological state of the organism in which the hormones controllable through the diet are balanced for the precise purpose of promoting the emergence of an optimal health condition ... 


The boundaries of the Zone are defined by blood parameters ... which rest on the dynamic balance of two key hormonal systems (those of insulin and eicosanoids)".

Again according to Sears, the Zone's food program consists of three elements:


a) The balance between protein and carbohydrates with each meal (this allows you to control your insulin levels);

b) Calorie restriction without hunger or deprivation;

c) Supplementation with fish oil (this acts on eicosanoids).

Eicosanoids are considered hormones (therefore substances produced by glands), but, unlike other hormones, which are produced by a specific gland, eicosanoids are produced by ALL the cells of the human body. 

This means that each of our cells behaves like an eicosanoid-producing gland. There are "good" eicosanoids and "bad" eicosanoids and the goal of nutrition is to find the right balance between the two groups.


Good Eicosanoids

Bad Eicosanoids
·      They inhibit platelet aggregation

·      They favor the aggregation of platelets
·      They favor vasodilatation

·      They favor vasoconstriction
·      They ease the pain

·      They accentuate the pain
·      They inhibit cell proliferation

·      They favor cell proliferation
·      They stimulate the immune response

·      They depress the immune response
·      They improve mental efficiency

·      They worsen mental efficiency

All bad eicosanoids derive from long-chain omega 6 fatty acid ARACHIDONIC ACID (AA), while good eicosanoids depend on the abundant presence of EICOSAPENTAENOIC ACID (EPA). 

Insulin comes into play in the construction of bad eicosanoids, as it activates the enzymes DELTA-5-DESATURASI; this enzyme catalyzes the formation reaction of omega 6 fatty acids into ARACHIDONIC acid, which, as we have said, is the precursor of bad eicosanoids.

Sears undoubtedly gave a great impetus to think better about the hormonal implications given by a wrong diet.


However, there is some clarification to be made, especially when Sears says he can provide a calorie restriction without starving. 


Not all the people who have tried it agree with the fact that, with the Zone diet, you don't go hungry and you shouldn't be deprived. 

In fact, from a quantitative point of view, with the Zone diet, there is a not indifferent restriction, which, however, should be borne by keeping insulin levels constant. 

The Zone diet is a highly low-calorie diet!
The points of merit of the Zone are in the fact of having further reaffirmed the importance of insulin levels for health, of having introduced a new concept (which is that of eicosanoids), of heroically insisting on the abundant consumption of vegetables and fruit (and therefore on the intake of fiber). 
The biggest problems of this diet are shown in its application: to be sure that people followed the prescriptions correctly, Sears has devised a complicated system of "blocks" of food, which must be assembled together for the composition of the meals:

This is sometimes difficult to do and still requires a good degree of education, an attitude to make calculations, and a predisposition to radically change one's rhythms and food tastes. 

The risk, otherwise, is that, even here, of always eating the same things. 

Another note of merit by Sears is to have insisted much no longer on the glycemic index, as Montignac does, but on the concept of glycemic load. 


The glycemic index of food represents the speed with which the blood sugar increases (i.e. the concentration of glucose in the blood) following the intake of that food. 

The index is expressed in percentage terms with respect to the speed with which the blood sugar increases, following the intake of a reference food (which has a glycemic index 100): a glycemic index of 50 means that the food raises the blood sugar with a speed that is equal to half that of the reference food. 

The concept of glycemic load refers to the fact that a small amount of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index produces the same effects on insulin as a large number of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index.


There is however a great criticism that can be made to Sears: he, like many others, wanted to absolutize ONLY one biochemical mechanism and build an entire food system only on that.


Let's try to compare the tables that Montignac and Sears give on food, relative to the glycemic index; we can see that there are remarkable differences.



Here are some comparisons:

Comparison of Glycemic Indices
Food and its glycemic index

Food and its Glycemic index
·      Watermelon
103

·      Watermelon
75
·      Apple
54

·      Apple
30
·      Peaches
40

·      Peaches
30
·      Linguine
79

·      Linguine / Macaroni
50
·      Chickpeas
47

·      Chickpeas
30
·      White bread
100

·      White bread
70
·      Couscous
93

·      Couscous
70
·      Banana
79

·      Banana
60
·      Macaroni
64

·      Linguine / Macaroni
50
·      Boiled white potatoes
90

·      Boiled potatoes without peel
70
·      Pumpernickel bread
109

·      Rye bread
40


Already making these few examples, some perplexity arises. 

If you remember what Montignac says (i.e. to lose weight you have to use foods with a glycemic index lower than 36), 

at this point, can we eat the apple or not? And the peaches? and the chickpeas? 

When will we have to keep the weight (using food with a value not higher than 50), will we be able to consume the macaroni and linguine? What about rye bread? 

The glycemic index is too variable an index that is affected by too many factors to be taken as a cornerstone for a certain type of diet. In the end, the risk is that of transforming the Zone into a high protein diet, in the obsession with limiting the glycemic index.


"As is known, after food intake the blood sugar increases, reaching a stable maximum (peak) in the 30'-60 'after intake (see for example Interpretation of laboratory data, Bonardi, et al.). 

So much so that the glycemic curve is one of the most important tests for the detection of anomalies in the management of sugars. In general, 75 g of glucose (300 kcal) are administered, reduced to 50 g in children, and hypoponderal subjects. 


In general, a peak blood sugar lower than 180 mg/dl is considered normal. Obviously, by taking more calories, the peak blood sugar increases compared to the normal value of the blood glucose curve. 


According to the dictates of the science of classical nutrition (V. Miselli - The calculation of carbohydrates in the therapy of type 1 diabetes)

the impact of macronutrients on blood sugar is 90-100% for carbohydrates, 50% for proteins and 10% for fats. TRUE!

The Zone Diet relies instead on the consideration that a protein/carbohydrate ratio of 0.75 minimizes the insulin peak. FALSE!


Here is the experiment on myself (an individual of 57 kg). As can be seen, the blood sugar peak after two hours wanes in the three cases (fortunately I am not diabetic!), As proof that the insulin intervened correctly and did its job. 
In the first case, to bring blood sugar back to normal levels, it was necessary to mobilize a much higher amount of insulin, contrary to Sears' thesis that a meal in the area should not trigger an insulin spike.

Phase one - resting blood glucose measurement: 84 mg/dl.

Intake of 200 g of Rio Mare salmon and 200 g of Menz Gasser jam (the breakdown of macronutrients: 38.5-29.9-31.6; total calories 633); blood glucose measurement after 35 ': 197 mg/dl; blood glucose measurement after two hours: 88 mg/dl.
Phase two - Measurement of resting blood glucose: 83 mg/dl.

Intake of only 200 g of Menz Gasser jam (the breakdown of macronutrients: 94.1% carbohydrates; total calories: 260); blood glucose measurement after 35 ': 164 mg/dl; blood glucose measurement after two hours: 85 mg/dl.


Note: 

How the first meal raises the blood sugar much more than the second, even if it has a decidedly more favorable protein/carbohydrate ratio (according to the area); 

The difference is only in the 362 kcal of salmon (only proteins and fats), as proof that proteins and fats also contribute to the rise in blood sugar. 

The ratio does not count, the total "weighted" quantity (in the sense that proteins count for half, fats for about a tenth) of macronutrients counts. Phase two shows that it is better to eat 400 kcal with a bad breakdown than 600 kcal of a meal perfectly in the area. 


It is precisely the fact that a "forbidden" meal is better than one in the area that already kills the area! But let's go on considering an isocaloric situation compared to phase 1.

Phase three - Measurement of blood glucose at rest: 80 mg/dl.

Intake of 200 g of Menz Gasser jam + 42 g of extra virgin olive oil (the breakdown of macronutrients: 39.8-1-59.2; total calories: 638); blood glucose measurement after 35 ': 174 mg/dl; blood glucose measurement after two hours: 84 mg/dl. 


Indeed, this short and simple experiment demonstrates just how fundamentally it is not true that meals proportioned according to the dictates of the Zone give a lower glycemic level.


We report another passage from the same site, which instead poses serious doubts about the reliability of the Zone diet in the sports field:


"Here is the translation (the comments in red are mine to try to make the topic more understandable) of an article published in Sports Med. 1999 Apr; 27 (4): 213-28.


Zone diet and athletic performance - Cheuvront SN.


Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA.


The zone diet is the most recent dietary model promoted with the aim of improving athletic performance as opposed to traditional carbohydrate-rich sports diets. 


The 40/30/30 diet focuses mainly on protein requirements (from 1.8 to 2.2 g / kg of lean mass) and promises a change in the ratio of insulin and glucagon through the alteration of macronutrients. 

The changes in the hormonal picture are thought to produce a greater production of vasoactive eicosanoids, allowing better muscle oxygenation. 

This favorable condition, known as the Zone, is anecdotally reported as favorable for endurance athletes. 

By applying the protein requirements and the distribution of the macronutrients in the area, it is clear that you have a diet with few carbohydrates and with lower calorie intake than the standard.

Much of the literature oppose the fact that this diet can improve performance, a small minority approves of it. The concept that a 40/30/30 diet can alter pancreatic hormone (insulin) in favor of glucagon is unfounded. 


The area is a mixed diet that does not change the release of pancreatic hormones as individual foods do. 

Although the postprandial insulin response is reduced when comparing a 40% carbohydrate diet with a 60% carbohydrate diet.

There is still enough stimulus to balance the lipolytic effect of glucagon (and therefore there is no slimming effect that, in the Zone, is obtained only because the total calories are few!). 

Many of the benefits promised by the area are based on selective information regarding the influences on the biology of eicosanoids. The information that contradicts (the area) has been expertly kept silent. 

The principle of vasodilatation of the arterioles of the muscles obtained by altering the production of eicosanoids is correct in theory. 


However, the little experimental evidence on human organisms does not support the theory of a contribution of eicosanoids in the activation of muscle vasodilation. 

In fact, the production of eicosanoids reported by the area as responsible for muscle oxygenation is not detected in skeletal muscles (i.e. it is not detected by field tests!). 

Therefore based on scientific evidence, the zone diet should be considered towards the more ergolytic performance (destructive of strength as it is low in calories) than ergogenic (generating of strength). "

The ZONA diet is a NON-HYPERPROTEIC diet, but LOW CARB and STRONGLY LOW-CALORIC. 


To understand it, just do a few small accounts. Knowing that each block contains 9 grams of carbohydrates + 7 grams of protein + 7 grams of fat, let's make a small calculation.

We know that the energy ratio is given by the 40:30:30 subdivision.



In the area, the first thing to calculate is the share of protein. How you do it?


Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA.

The zone diet is the most recent dietary model promoted with the aim of improving athletic performance as opposed to traditional carbohydrate-rich sports diets. 


The 40/30/30 diet focuses mainly on protein requirements (from 1.8 to 2.2 g / kg of lean mass) and promises a change in the ratio of insulin and glucagon through alteration of macronutrients. 

The changes in the hormonal picture are thought to produce a greater production of vasoactive eicosanoids, allowing better muscle oxygenation. 

This favorable condition, known as the Zone, is anecdotally reported as favorable for endurance athletes. 

By applying the protein requirements and the distribution of the macronutrients in the area, it is clear that you have a diet with few carbohydrates and with lower calorie intake than the standard.

Much of the literature oppose the fact that this diet can improve performance, a small minority approves of it. 


The concept that a 40/30/30 diet can alter pancreatic hormone (insulin) in favor of glucagon is unfounded. 

The area is a mixed diet that does not change the release of the pancreatic hormones as individual foods do. Although the postprandial insulin response is reduced when comparing a 40% carbohydrate diet with a 60% carbohydrate diet. 


There is still enough stimulus to balance the lipolytic effect of glucagon (and therefore there is no slimming effect that, in the Zone, is obtained only because the total calories are few!). 

Many of the benefits promised by the area are based on selective information regarding the influences on the biology of eicosanoids. 


The information that contradicts (the area) has been expertly kept silent. The principle of vasodilatation of the arterioles of the muscles obtained by altering the production of eicosanoids is correct in theory. 

However, the little experimental evidence on human organisms does not support the theory of a contribution of eicosanoids in the activation of muscle vasodilation. 

In fact, the production of eicosanoids reported by the area as responsible for muscle oxygenation is not detected in skeletal muscles (i.e. it is not detected by field tests!).

Therefore based on scientific evidence, the zone diet should be considered towards the more ergolytic performance (destructive of strength as it is low in calories) than ergogenic (generating of strength). "

The ZONA diet is a NON-HYPERPROTEIC diet, but LOW CARB and STRONGLY LOW-CALORIC. To understand it, just do a few small accounts. 

Knowing that each block contains 9 grams of carbohydrates + 7 grams of protein + 7 grams of fat, let's make a small calculation.

We know that the energy ratio is given by the 40:30:30 subdivision.


In the area, the first thing to calculate is the share of protein. How you do it?


FORMULA: 


Quantity of lean body mass x physical activity index (physical activity indices are:


1.1 Pure sedentary


1.3 Quiet work, without training or regular sports


1,5 Work plus low-intensity fitness activities; obese subjects


1.7 Stressful jobs; subjects who train at least three times a week or systematically practice 
a sport

1.9 Work out and daily aerobic or weight training


2.1 Heavy daily training


2.3 Training for competitive purposes.


Let's take the example of a sedentary with 60 kg of lean mass. He should consume 66 grams of protein. 

Sears himself made corrections to this algorithm: at the beginning he made the first correction, establishing that, however, the minimum to be taken is 77 grams of protein. 

He subsequently made a second correction and determined, once and for all, that a man, at a minimum, should consume 13-14 blocks of protein.

Each block has 7 grams of protein. So 98 grams of protein = 392 Kcal. If this represents 30% of the daily income, it means that another 392 Kcal is given by fats and 523 Kcal are given by carbohydrates.


THEREFORE A MAN OF ABOUT 70 KG WITH A LOW MASS OF 60 KG WILL 

AT LEAST HAVE A DIET OF 1306 KCAL!







Low Carb: Zone Diet Low Carb: Zone Diet Reviewed by Muhammad Akram on June 29, 2020 Rating: 5

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