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The Zone diet: a hormones matter

The principles of the Zone diet.

Barry Sears, creator of the Zone diet, is an American biochemist, and the nutritional regime that made him famous all over the world is born by the desire to find nutritional protocols for diabetics and decrease the incidence of mortality from myocardial infarction, diseases on which much we can do by changing our way of life, as we have already seen in this article on cardiovascular risk and feeding.

The basic assumption of Sears is the aphorism of Hippocrates that ‘food is our best medicine, and our best medicine is our food’, in the sense that the key to understand the Zone diet is not counting calories and their proper distribution among the macronutrients (40% from carbohydrates, 30% from fat, 30% from protein), but the effects of diet on the secretion of hormones in our body, which by this diet are maintained within optimal physiological values.

If the term ‘diet’ we mean a restrictive diet to be taken for a limited period of time in order to lose weight, to follow the diet invented by Sears we must use a different approach, and face the course with the goal of changing our lifestyle.

The hormones involved.


The hormones that are most affected by food, and on which the Zone diet will have an impact, are insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids.

  • InsulinAlso called the storage hormone, secreted after a meal by the beta cells of the pancreas, drives nutrients into cells, storing mainly glucose, which can be defined the fuel for muscles and brain.

    Insulin is a hormone with a double face, a good and a bad one: if the concentration in response to a glucose load is adequate, it gets the right amount of fuel to our cells; however, if the concentration is too high, the liver converts excess sugars into fat, which are then accumulated in the adipose tissue.

    In the Zone diet is therefore essential not only to introduce an appropriate proportion of carbohydrates (the famous 40%), but also choose those with a low glycemic load, to prevent insulin spikes.

  • The Glucagon
    It is the hormone antagonist to insulin, and performs the opposite function: it helps to release the stored energy from the cells.
    Glucagon is produced mainly when we eat foods that contain proteins.
    Increasing the secretion of glucagon, we can push our body to use the energy stored as fat as a fuel for its activities.
    The Zone diet has an effect on the axis insulin-glucagon, modulating the release of these hormones by the feeding.
  • The eicosanoids
    They’re also known as ‘super hormones’ because they control all the other hormonal systems of the body and each physiological function, such as the cardiovascular system, blood clotting, kidney function, immune response, inflammation.
    We can define the state of health as the balance of the body constituents, therefore in principle there is no evidence either positive or negative elements, though, simplifying, we can divide the eicosanoids in ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on the anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory function that they play.
    Since essential fatty acids are precursors of eicosanoids, the Zone diet, to the extent that intends to modulate their production through nutrition, prescribes a balance between omega-6 eicosanoid ‘bad’ precursors, and omega-3 precursors of ‘good’ eicosanoids: the ratio beteen omega-3 and omega-6 should be in fact 1:4, while the typical value of the diets of industrialized Western countries is on average 1:10.

The benefits of the Zone diet

The Zone diet is a useful support for:

  • Reduce the incidence of diseases related to the metabolic syndrome, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, obesity;
  • Have a greater mental activity, as maintaining stable blood sugar levels throughout the day, the brain, which unlike the muscles do not have the prerogative to store energy, receives fuel regularly;
  • Have energy and better physical performance, because stabilizing the levels of insulin and glucagon, enables the body to use stored fat in adipose tissue as a source of unlimited energy;
  • Reduce the desire for sweet foods, a result of a bad hormonal modulation since the last meal;
  • Improve the physical appearance, to the extent that it reduces fat mass, reduces water retention and increases muscle mass.

NatrixLab, which identifies in nutrition and lifestyle the way leading to the balance and health of the organism, proposes to all the people using the Diet Zone some tests to measure the fairness in following this protocol and its impact on hormones production:

  1. Zone Plus Test
    It is an integrated test to evaluate, in addition to the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 (AA / EPA), two other fundamental parameters, insulin and blood sugar levels, which give a more comprehensive evaluation of the hormonal regulation of metabolism.
    Read more here >>
  2. Hormonal Profiles
    It is a test which, by analysis of a sample of saliva, investigates the dosage of the hormones in the body.
    Read more here >>

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