At least 3 or 4 times per week, I have a discussion with someone who needs to lose weight who is terrified to eat carbohydrates, because they have become convinced, through listening to some of the diet gurus that carbohydrates make you fat. This is absolutely not true, if you are eating complex carbohydrates from natural plant foods.
One of the biggest promoters of the “carbohydrates make you fat” theory is Barry Sears, author of The Zone, and promoter now of all types of foods supportive of his “Zone” diet. These are showing up in health food and mainstream stores as well, causing even more people to ask specifically about this diet.
Barry Sears promises weight loss, improved health and energy by following his plan for consuming more protein and fat. According to him, he has a better understanding of physiology than anyone else, which has allowed him to develop a very unusual set of recommendations, which includes eating a measured amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate at every meal and snack. The theory is that by doing so, glucose will ease more gently into the bloodstream, avoiding insulin swings, and that by doing so, the production of inflammatory hormones called eicosanoids, will be reduced. According to Sears, the cause of weight gain in America is that people are consuming more carbohydrates, and following misguided advice to consume less fat in the diet. I don’t know who this guy is observing, but there aren’t too many people coming into our offices that are consuming less fat these days!
Most people reading Sears’ book do not know enough about physiology to see through the inaccurate claims and pseudoscience he promotes, which explains his large number of followers.
Sear claims that vegetarian diets are bad for the heart and that people following Dean Ornish’s diet will ultimately have more heart attacks than the patients on the American Heart Association’s diet. On the contrary, Dr. Ornish’s work has been widely reviewed and published and documents that coronary artery blockages can be reversed in heart disease patients who consume a vegetarian diet. Follow up studies have shown that Ornish patients continue to improve the longer they consume his diet, while people following the American Heart Association’s diet continue to experience declines in health.
Sears additionally claims that patients following the Ornish program develop more insulin resistance because of their high carbohydrate diet. This is in spite of an average weight loss of 24 pounds on the Ornish diet. Every physician in the U.S. acknowledges the connection between insulin resistance and body weight.
Sears states that eicosanoids are hormones that control the development of every disease, and that to keep them in check, you have to eat his precise protein to carbohydrate ratio diet. There is absolutely no evidence in the medical literature of this, and Sears has never measured the eicanosoid levels of his own patients to document his claim.
It would require almost writing another book in order to address all of the inaccuracies in this book, which include the representation that athletes perform better on a high-fat diet and the statement that there is a connection between rice consumption and heart disease in the Japanese,
The best evidence of Sears’ incompetence, however, is that he recommends a calorie restrictive diet that he cannot possibly follow. He claims to eat 100 grams of protein per day, and if you use his calculations to figure out his calorie consumption based on the ratio of proteins to fats and carbohydrates he recommends, that means he is on a 1330 calorie per day diet. He weighs 210 pounds and is 6 feet 5 inches tall. I am interested in how he manages to maintain that weight on 1330 calories per day, since he admits to losing only 35 pounds over a 4-year period of time. Based on a projected calorie deficit of at least 1000 calories per day, he should have lost about 400 pounds during the last 4 years by following his plan. In a debate with Sears, Dr. John McDougall asked him if he weighed 600 pounds when he started his diet. He did not directly answer the question. Obviously, this guy is not telling the truth, and his dietary advice is not worth following.