The Pro & Cons of the Zone Diet

Variety of bread
Grains are limited on the Zone diet. (Image: grafvision/iStock/Getty Images)

The best diet is the one that you can stick to, but finding that diet can take some effort and experimentation. The Zone diet is a low glycemic-index diet, which means that it includes mainly foods that don't cause large spikes in your blood sugar levels. The founder of the diet, Dr. Barry Sears, recommends following a diet including certain proportions of each fat, carbohydrates and protein. While the Zone diet can have some beneficial effects on weight and health, it isn't for everyone.

Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk

Following the Zone diet may help you lose weight and lower your risk for heart disease, according to a study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" in January 2005. Overweight study participants who followed the Zone diet for a year lost a small amount of weight, about 8 pounds, and improved their cholesterol ratios, thus decreasing their risk for heart disease.

Micronutrient Content

The Zone diet is relatively balanced when it comes to micronutrients. Unlike many other well-known diets, such as the Atkins diet and the Ornish diet, which increased the risk for micronutrient deficiencies, study participants who followed the Zone diet for a year decreased their risk for micronutrient deficiencies, according to a study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in August 2010.

Not For Everyone

Athletes may want to avoid following the Zone diet. According to a study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" in February 2002, athletes who followed this diet lost weight, but also lost endurance, becoming more quickly exhausted during activity after following the Zone diet for a week.

Scientific Basis Questions

One of the main components of the Zone diet is the ratio of 40 percent carbohydrates to 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein. However, according to nutrition experts, such as Walter Willett and Ester Kim from the Harvard School of Public Health, there isn't enough evidence as to the benefits of eating foods containing these specific proportions of nutrients. An article in published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in February 2003 also raises questions about the scientific basis for the Zone diet.

Difficult to Follow

Since each meal on the Zone diet needs to have the 40 to 30 to 30 macronutrient breakdown recommended by the diet, it can be difficult and time consuming to follow the diet. This diet can also be very low in calories, with only about 1,000 per day, according to the PBS Scientific American Frontiers website, which may leave many people feeling hungry.

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