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The Zone Diet with Dr. Barry Sears
We have a very special guest that I’m very excited about. It’s Dr. Barry Sears, who’s the bestselling author of The Zone. He’s the Creator of The Zone Diet and Founder of ZoneDiet.com. Dr. Sears is one of the leading authorities on the dietary control of hormonal and inflammatory responses to treat chronic disease. He’s the author of twelve books on anti-inflammatory diets including the number one New York Times bestseller, The Zone. His books have sold more than five million copies and had been translated into 22 languages. He has a book called Toxic Fat: When Good Fat Turns Bad. Dr. Sears, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much.
I’m very excited to meet you because I used your program in my private practice in San Diego many years ago. You wrote The Zone book in 1995 and that introduced us to The Zone Diet. It was on the bestseller list and it has seemingly sustained its popularity. Why do you think The Zone Diet has remained so popular?
It’s based on science. Eventually, there are three things in life which are visceral. One is politics, the second is religion and the third is nutrition. They’re all based on belief systems. Don’t confuse it with the facts because in my heart I know I’m right. I can’t do much about religion or politics, but at least nutrition can be basically investigated. One of the reasons why The Zone Diet has stood the test of time because it’s been validated continually over and over as the best diet to control hormonal responses. By doing so, that’s how you live a longer and better life.
Can you talk a little bit about some of the research studies that have been done on The Zone Diet since your book was first published?
In terms of research studies in diet, when you do that you have to treat humans like lab rats. We have to feed them exactly the same meals but in terms of calories comparing different balances of protein, carbohydrate and fat. These are very expensive studies and there aren’t that many done, but the ones that have been published have shown conclusively that The Zone Diet is superior in reducing insulin levels and it’s superior in reducing blood sugar levels. It’s superior in reducing blood lipid levels and superior in reducing appetite. It’s superior in burning fat at a faster rate and most importantly, superior in reducing inflammation. The last studies came from Harvard Medical School.
When you say it’s been compared to other diets, are we talking about diets like the Ornish Program, Atkins Diet or Weight Watchers?
All of the above, but primarily always looking at the standard is what has been in the past the recommendations of the US Government. That has been widely-adopted as the way to eat not only in America but throughout the world. That becomes the gold standard you’re comparing it to. In every case, The Zone Diet seems to run circles around the gold standard.
You’re talking about in terms of the gold standard, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid in its latest iteration that’s come out. Since those food pyramids had been followed, the rates of obesity have skyrocketed in our country and across the world.
It’s not for the reasons which are apparent. I talk about these in my book, Toxic Fat, that there was no one particular entity that basically accelerates our obesity epidemic in America, but a confluence of three distinct factors that first occurred in America are now spreading worldwide. The first of these is the gradual but dramatic increase in the levels of Omega-6 fatty acid consumption in America. You find them in vegetable oils things like corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil or safflower oil. You have these images of these wonderful natural entities but in high concentrations, they basically set off a chain reaction that makes us fatter, makes us sicker and makes us dumber.
Is it because of inflammation that they do that? You’re probably old enough to remember when we were encouraged to use instead of lard Crisco, we were encouraged to use corn oil for cooking.
The same is true of butter. Surprisingly, both lard and butter are very low in Omega-6 fatty acids. Once we substituted fats which were lower at Omega-6 fatty acids for fats which are very high, all of sudden, we unleashed a tsunami of inflammation that’s raising havoc from one generation to the next.
It’s interesting that sometimes when we pick apart nutritional science, we end up making these mistakes. We were advised not to use butter because it was high in saturated fat as I recall and also lard. There was a big focus on years ago about reducing saturated fats in the diet. While we tried to do that, we also increased the Omega-6s. You talked about in your book, Toxic Fat, the perfect nutritional storm. Was that part of the nutritional storm?[bctt tweet=”There are three things in life that are visceral; one is politics, the second is religion, and the third is nutrition.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
That was probably one major component and then you have a second component. This was the increase in the fine carbohydrates in our diet. This is junk food, but it’s also every processed food you’ll find in the supermarket. These processed carbohydrates will increase the generation of the hormone insulin. When you add excess insulin to excess Omega-6 fatty acids, it’s like adding a match to a bed of kerosene. You get an explosion. The third component of our nutritional disaster was a decrease in Omega-3 fatty acids. These are the fatty acids you find in fish and fish oils. Why are they important? Because in a high level of concentrations, they are very profound anti-inflammatory fatty acids. They’re like control rods in a nuclear reactor, but we’ve been putting those control rods out of our diet. Once they were out, then you’re adding the lighted match on a bed of kerosene, you had nothing to control the inflammatory response.
There has been a lot of talk about sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar addiction. How does that fit into your view and the need to be in the zone? How does that fit into the whole big picture?
The thing about sugar addiction is true. There are animal studies published that showed conclusively that if you take cocaine-addicted animals and then offer them super sweet sugar water, that’s already saturated with sugar. Then you add some artificial sweeteners on top of it, they will switch their allegiance for cocaine to the super sweetened sugar water within three days. We know the reason why because the glucose found in the sugar can interact with the same receptors that the cocaine does and gives basically the same reward mechanisms.
That’s the dopamine reward center where all of the drugs of addiction operate.
We are getting more and more refined carbohydrates. The definition refined carbohydrate is that it enters the bloodstream as glucose at a much faster rate. What you’re doing is turning Americans into a new generation of addicts. Not addicted to cocaine or heroin but addicted to sugar.
This high fructose corn syrup, is it worse than any other sugar?
It’s about the same. It’s an easy target but the fact is sugar is still sugar. Unless you’re basically consuming about ten or twelve regular Cokes a day, then probably you will not have the impact. It’s the fructose which is basically viewed as the evil doer. It’s the same level that you find in table sugar. We have sweetened the palate of America so much that whatever sugar, whether it be table sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, they all basically are jarring enough glucose to cause addiction behavior throughout our society.
As I was biking in the park, there was a group of trucks advertising new sodas that have natural sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. This is the new marketing fad that the Cokes have or Sprites have “natural sugar” and we’re being told that they’re better. You’re saying that’s not true.
They actually have the same composition of fructose and glucose, but they’re both just as addictive. When you drink or eat too much sugar, you’re going to cause significant hormonal responses that you only have negative adverse consequences.
Can you talk a little bit about what you describe as some of the toxic fat syndrome?
Toxic fat is a short way of describing an Omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid. These are called toxic fat because in high enough concentrations, it kills. That’s the fatty acid that happens when you add the high levels of sugar to the high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. You make more toxic fat and that’s killing our society.
Do you have to be overweight or obese to have toxic fat syndrome?
No, not on the contrary. Many of the Olympic athletes I work with look very good on swimsuits, but they have high levels of toxic fat in their bloodstream because of their diet.[bctt tweet=”When you add excess insulin to excess omega 6 fatty acids, it’s like getting a match to a kerosene. You’re going to explode.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
What things would they be eating that increased arachidonic acid in their diet?
Americans love to eat. They think they have a blast furnace for a stomach.
Anything that is fried and anything that has vegetable oils or Omega-6, but what about things like meat?
All meat contains some Omega-6 fatty acids if they remain no more than about 1% maybe 2% of your diet, you’re probably okay. In America, there are around 9% or 10%.
Many people are eating meat three times a day. Is that healthy to do?
What you’re looking for are amino acids. It doesn’t matter where they come from. They can come from tofu, egg whites or lean meat, but you need a certain amount of amino acids to keep the body synthesizing new proteins around the clock.
Speaking of research, I read in Toxic Fat your search for the perfect borage oil. You’ve got your brother on board and you were looking for the perfect mix of Omega-3s, EPA and DHA with borage oil. Can you tell us why Omega-3s and the use of borage oil are important in our diets to reduce inflammation?
They’re important because they can give rise to a group of hormones that are called the carcinoids. These carcinoids are the hormones that drive inflammation. There are two types. There are good ones and there are bad ones. The bad ones cause inflammation. The good ones prevent inflammation. You need the combination of both. Otherwise, you would have a hard time going through life. The fact is what we have is a preponderance of bad carcinoid which is causing basically increased inflammation in every cell in our body. We looked into it and we balance that to get a better balance of both good and bad carcinoid. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish oil is one. The fatty acids found in borage oil as it’s called gamma-linolenic acid. If you use it correctly and I say with emphasis on correctly because it’s a very powerful, but a potentially dangerous nutrient. If it goes in one direction, it makes very powerful anti-inflammatory hormones. If it goes in the other direction, then it makes some nasty ones and life’s a lot worse than it should be.
Borage oil has been used for other things like arthritis sometimes.
That’s why from the sample because of anti-inflammatory properties, it’s tricky and what led me onto The Zone Diet was understanding what was the sluice valve that caused this gamma-linolenic acid to go in the wrong direction. It turns out it was the excess production of the hormone insulin. I had to basically invent The Zone Diet to control insulin to try to divert that gamma-linolenic acid in the right direction.
Do you recommend that people who are on The Zone Diet take supplements with gamma-linolenic acid?
No, the reason why is because it’s so tricky to work with. Unless you’re paying very close attention to it. Here’s the best way and here’s a good amount of supplements you should take that contain gamma-linolenic acid. About two milligrams of gamma-linolenic acid per week. I have two natural sources. One is called human breast milk. A little short supply in Boston, but might be available elsewhere in America, but that’s not a good source. The other one is slow-cooked oatmeal. They need steel-cut oats. You have two bowls of slow-cooked oatmeal per week, you’re in great shape.
You also do recommend that people take a form of Omega-3 fatty acids.[bctt tweet=”You don’t have to be overweight or obese to have toxic fat syndrome.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
That’s our most critical thing. Those are the control rods to help us to control the inflammation. If you look at the American diet and look at the blood of Americans, our levels of Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly low. That’s part of the perfect nutritional storm we’ve taken the Omega-3 fatty acids out of the diet and left us highly vulnerable to this new increase inflammation being caused by our diet.
I also noticed that you recommend higher doses than even we use for depression or bipolar disease.
The reason I do, because most of the testing use of Omega-3 fatty acids is based on guessing. In reality what you have to do is you have to test. What you’re looking to do is to bring the levels of the two fatty acids, which are key. One is the toxic fat that’s the arachidonic acid, and the other fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid that comes from fish oil. You keep those in a balance. That’s about one to one. That’s pretty close what it is in the Japanese population. We’ve done now thousands of blood tests. The American diet is being so prone to inflammatory, they get so much toxic fat. The amount of Omega-3 fatty acids you need to bring in that ratio found in the Japanese population are very high levels.
What are the dosages that you’re currently recommending?
It depends on where inflammation is located. Let’s say you do well, you’re in normal weight and you have no chronic disease. What’s a good amount you need to bring the levels if you’re American to where the Japanese are? It turns out only about two and a half grams of Omega-3 fatty acids per day.
What if you’re overweight?
Basically, you’re already inflamed. If you’re overweight, you have diabetes or you have heart disease, plan to double that dosage.
Up to five grams a day.
Let’s say that you have what I call screaming pain, arthritic pain, plan to go about 7.5 grams per day. What if the inflammation is inside the brain, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, brain trauma, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Then plan to go about ten grams per day. These are very high dosages. Those are therapeutic dosages you need to basically bring the levels of inflammation as measured in the blood down into a zone where basically it’s consistent with long-term health.
I also read in your book the story of the miner. Can you talk about that? I had heard about it at a conference I was at the same time that it was happening and I was just amazed.
This was a case with the Sago Mine disaster years ago when thirteen miners were trapped in a mine explosion for about 41 hours in a carbon monoxide atmosphere. When they finally broke through, twelve of the thirteen were dead. The one miner they brought out was basically almost dead on arrival. He had kidney failure, liver failure, heart failure and brain failure. When they did an MRI with his brain, there was no white matter. It was gone. The neurosurgeon got a call from the governor saying, “Do not let this man die.” He said, “What do we do?” If this falls to me I’ll say, “What am I going to do?” I said, “Let’s start feeding him high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids to put down the inflammation in all the organs.”
You put it in his feeding tube and how much were you using?
We were giving him fifteen grams a day of those Omega-3 fatty acids. Initially, the neurologist said, “He’s going to bleed to death.” I said, “He’s not going to bleed to death because we just finished a study of children with ADHD and they were taking the same levels.” We started feeding him the fifteen grams a day for two months and he finally came out of his coma. We kept feeding him for another two months with the same levels, and two months later he went home. His heart was normal, his kidney was normal, his liver was normal. He gave a press conference worthy of any Italian politician.[bctt tweet=”In Japan, most of their omega 3s come from their diet.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
When you were mentioning that bleeding to death there is a caution on the use of Omega-3. It does thin the blood, but there haven’t been any reported cases that I know of people who have had actual advanced bleeding events. They do warn if you’re on a blood thinner not to take high doses without a physician.
That’s why blood testing is so important because no one bleeds to death in Japan and they take aspirin there. As long as the ratio of the Omega-6 and the Omega-3 in the blood is in that range, you won’t have any problems.
In Japan though, most of their Omega-3s come from their diet. They have a diet that’s high in vegetable sources of protein, high in fish and so on. Even in The Zone Diet, you do have lean sources of meat. How do you balance the thought of using high dose Omega-3 supplements versus making the anti-inflammatory diet has less of the arachidonic acid or less pro-inflammatory products such as meat, and other foods that do cause inflammation? My question is does The Zone Diet go far enough in reducing inflammation or should we be more towards a vegetarian diet?
I wrote a whole book in there called The Soy Zone on that basic premise because of vegetable sources of protein that have no arachidonic acid. This leaves you off the hook because you can still basically make arachidonic acid by taking high levels of vegetable oils and eating a lot of vegetarian pizzas. They run a study at Tufts Medical School. They try to get Americans to eat the same amount of fish as Japanese. They give them $1,500 as a stipend so you get to have free food for the next six months. The study was stopped after three days because Americans would not eat the same amount of fish the Japanese would.
When you figured out about The Zone Diet, you’re taking into account the influence of culture and that Americans will not follow.
The dietary recommendations are useless unless there’s compliance.
The Zone Diet gives you a lot of anti-inflammatory components and then you add in the Omega-3s to maximize that one-to-one ratio that is desirable. When you’re using the Omega-3, are you using the combination of EPA plus DHA or just the EPA?
Both of them because they do different things. The EPA will have more anti-inflammatory effects, but the DHA has other unique properties that the EPA doesn’t have. It affects membrane fluidity, it affects certain gene transcription factors, so you like to have both.
Are there any other dietary supplements that you recommend that people take with The Zone Diet?
On a scale of one to ten, I’ll give vitamins and minerals a one. They can’t hurt you but the data in terms of being very useful has been somewhat pathetic. On the same scale of one to ten, I’ll give vitamin D a two. It’s a hormone not a vitamin, but there have not been any intervention studies. There have been a lot of studies saying there are deficiencies and saying that might be the cause, but there have been no good interventions studies. On a scale of one to ten, I’ll give polyphenols a five. Polyphenols are that the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color. If you eat enough fruits and vegetables, you’ll get a lot of polyphenols. At high levels, they also have anti-inflammatory properties.
What number did you give them out of ten?
I gave them a five. On a scale of one to ten, I give fish oils a twelve. Make sure you have enough fish oils in your diet followed by having adequate levels of polyphenols and adequate levels of vitamin D. If you still have some money left over, then buy vitamins and minerals.
It’s a good strategy so that people can know what’s most important in terms of reducing inflammation. I want to suggest to take a little bit of a detour because the HCG diet has been super popular. It’s amazing to me given the research that it is so popular. It was on The Dr. Oz’s Show, he talked about it there. The ones who are for it are almost rabidly for it and don’t want to hear anything negative said about it. Then there have been people who have had very negative side effects. What are your thoughts about the HCG diet?[bctt tweet=”Things come and go in waves. You have to always wait for the next generation to die out before you bring it back.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
It’s been around for years. These things come and go in waves. You have to always wait for the next generation to die out before you bring it back. It’s a 500-calorie a day diet of which if you maintain that you lose weight. Think that the magic ingredient is an injection of this hormone which tends to basically rise in levels of females who are pregnant. Supposedly, this hormone will basically shut down your hunger, so you can get by on 500 calories. Unfortunately, there is no clinical data to support the efficacy of that. As a physician, practicing medicine is as much of a theater as is science. The mere fact of injecting something gives the patient saying, “I’ve got a secret weapon.” In reality, the only drugs that have ever been effective in terms of stopping hunger has been amphetamines. They could stop hunger dead in its tracks. They had some side effects like addiction and death. Other than that, they work pretty well.
We also had fen-phen and it worked because it was an amphetamine. That’s why these drugs released drop hunger do work, but HCGs have never shown to have any effect on hunger. If you’re on 500-calories a day, what you’re trying to do is to cannibalize your own lean body tissue. That’s your muscles and your organs. Your number one factor to maintain weight maintenance is having healthy muscle mass and it was gone. Then basically the weight when it comes back will be fighting a speed and came back not as muscle, but as fat.
Then there are hormonally-related side effects from HCG as well.
Once you place the hormonal game, you basically say if I push in one direction something’s going to happen the other direction. That’s why the whole key for the word diet is not a short-term period of hunger or deprivation, but it’s a lifelong program of hormonal control. If you can keep your hormones balanced or in a zone, then basically that’s something you can sustain for a lifetime.
It seems that those who are devotees of the HCG diet are going to believe whatever they want to believe about that. I’ve had a number of patients come into my office and despite my best efforts cannot be dissuaded from using the HCG diet and they are devoted to it.
That’s why I say part of the theater of medicine is you get the injection. Losing weight is pretty easy, keeping the weight off that’s the hard part. If somebody is devoted to diet XYZ thing, great. What are you going to do when you get down to hold your weight? How are you going to maintain it? Whatever you did to lose the weight, you probably have to do the rest your life. Living in 500 calories a day with an injection of HCG is probably not the best long-term solution for living a longer and better life.
It’s below the starvation level. I am sure you’re familiar with Ancel Keys’ studies from the 1950s. He used a diet to precipitate starvation and volunteers in a research study. They were men, but they were on 1,400 to 1,500 calories a day in over a six-month period. They developed all of the signs and symptoms of starvation.
That’s when we go back to the question, “Is protein important?” That’s the most important thing. There are a few things in the diet which are essential. There are essential fatty acids that are in the diet and they cannot be reduced. There are essential amino acids that need to be in the diet and they cannot be reduced. One of the problems with diet is that people tend to basically restrict everything including protein and put yourself into a situation where your intake of essential amino acids is a deficiency condition.
That can have wide-ranging effects. My specialty is treating eating disorders and addictions. Without those amino acids, we can’t make the neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin that your brain needs in order to feel good.
The key that you’re looking for is a magic mix of the food you like to eat that basically will keep you thin, keep you happy, keep you smarter and make you live longer.
What is the solution though for children who are obese? There’s such a dramatic increase in obesity in our children. We’re seeing Type 2 diabetes in children as well. Some are predicted that by twenty years of age, some of these obese children will even have heart disease.
This is a problem and it’s more complex than we’re led to believe also. The greatest growth in obesity is children under aged four. What are they doing to make them obese? We get back to the very insidious aspect that I talk about in Toxic Fat is how the obesity genes can be activated and amplified from one generation to the next. The very classic experiment was published a few years ago where you can take rats who were genetically identical. When you split them into two colonies and give them exactly the same number of calories, exactly the same protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
The only difference between the two colonies is one had a diet rich in Omega-6 fatty acids and the other had a diet low in Omega-6 fatty acids. You followed them through for three generations. By the third generation, the colony who was getting the diet that was identical in every way except for the high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids were now grossly obese. They already had liver dysfunction. Their hearts and kidneys were engorged with fat. What was happening is called epigenetic programming. Where the dietary intake is changing the expression of genes from one generation to the next. We’ve been exposed to this perfect nutritional storm for three generations. What we’re seeing is our children are fatter than ever before at a younger age because we have altered their genes.[bctt tweet=”The word diet is not a short-term period of hunger or deprivation, but a life-long program of hormonal control.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
What you’re talking about is the ability of food and our lifestyle to either turn the gene on or off? Once it’s turned on, then the next generation already is born with it turned on. They have an even bigger genetic burden for obesity than the previous generation.
That’s a frightening aspect. Turning those genes back off will take time. Not a couple of months, maybe about three generations.
We’re going to be stuck with the obesity epidemic for a long time then.
That’s why simple slogans like, “Eat less and exercise more,” are probably not going to work. We have to realize that one-third of Americans have a normal weight and they live in the same food environment, the other two-thirds live in. They’re simply genetically lucky.
Genetics may load the gun, but what we do in our lives does pull the trigger.
What happens in the womb is the obesity adds a few more rounds of ammunition to the gun.
Is there anything that you can do for pregnant women, for example, to help start reversing the trend in children? It’s heartbreaking to see children who are so obese that they can’t play on the playground.
I guarantee you, the children will wake up one day saying, “Now is a good day to get obese.”
If they’re younger than age four, they don’t even have control over what they’re eating.
It’s not that their parents are bad parents, it’s saying that unbeknownst we’re in the midst of a gigantic genetic experiment that has not gone well. It will continue to go poorly for Americans. That being said, what can you do? There are two things that can reduce this. One is called gastric bypass surgery, and that’s not a very attractive alternative. The other one is a diet that’s very strict in terms of restricting Omega-6 fatty acids. That’s how you choke off the formation of toxic fat. Also, you take away the driver of forming toxic fat, which is high levels of insulin which means you eat a lot of vegetables.
That’s been a problem in our culture. Is it Jamie Collins, the chef from England who went to Virginia and tried to help people on a one-to-one basis, to help the schools cook better food? It seems very difficult to get people to eat vegetables.
As Margaret Mead said one time, “It’s easier to change your religion than to change her diet.” Food preferences get formed very early. That’s why what the child is fed in the womb and in the first couple of years will dictate the food preferences of that child.
We were talking about the confusion that people have about what to eat and how to motivate people to eat more healthily. Eat more fruits and vegetables that have all of those good polyphenols. What have you been learning and what have you been doing about what you’ve learned about this issue of motivation?
I came to the conclusion that people are not going to change their diet. It might be more productive to ask what they will eat. Most Americans will say, “Pizza, pasta and pastries.” I said, “If that’s what the need for compliance, what if I can produce pizza, pasta and pastries that would have a different hormonal response, but look and taste exactly the same?” The reason for this is for treating diabetic patients. The number one food choice is always white bread. That’s not going to change. If you can’t bring Muhammad to the mountain, try to bring the mountain to Muhammad. We’ve spent a number of years and spending a brand-new food technology that allowed us to take the foods that used to make you fat, and now make you thin. The reason why they’re making you thin is that they shut down hunger. Due to the cooking technology we use that’s patented, it allows us to basically almost get all the benefits of a gastric bypass surgery in a bagel.
You’re putting more protein in the bagel?
More protein and also reducing the glycemic index of the carbohydrate by cross-linking the protein and the carbohydrate, so they will have a longer lifetime in the GI tract. As a consequence, you get this new rush of hormones from the lower part of the GI tract to the brain saying, “Stop eating.”[bctt tweet=”If you keep your hormones balanced or in a zone, then basically that’s something you can sustain for a lifetime.” username=”CarolynCRossMD”]
Do you have doughnuts next?
We have doughnuts, we have brownies, we have everything Americans love to eat. It’s more difficult to change their religion than their diet, so you want to reduce the stress. That’s why people don’t follow dietary programs because they’re too stressful.
How do you make those pastries sweet though without using sugar, which would then affect insulin?
That’s one of the secrets to reduce that. In some cases like the pasta, the pasta isn’t very sweet by itself, it is the bread. The bread, the pasta and the pizza are pretty simple.
Would these be considered genetically engineered foods?
On the contrary, what we’re using are natural sources. Being able to cook them in close molecular contact. That’s why I call the technology molecular baking.
Are these foods available on your website, ZoneDiet.com? If people want to try these foods they can buy them from your website?
Exactly. What you are looking for is I say, “I ate a bagel and for the next five hours, I’m not hungry.”
I wanted to talk a little bit about the emotional aspects of overeating. Many people say that one of the reasons that they overeat has to do with their self-medicating emotions. In my field, people with binge-eating disorder or bulimia who are bingeing on certain foods because of stress or emotion. What’s your take on that and how does The Zone Diet fit in there?
I’m completely with them because when you’re under stress, what the body does is it puts out the stress hormone cortisol. What that does is cause rapid insulin resistance that drives down the blood sugar levels. The brain is dying up there saying, “Would you please feed me? Make sure it’s lots of carbohydrates.” When they’re saying they have stress-induced eating, they’re telling you exactly the truth. The question is how do you reduce stress? One way is to exercise. Another way is to do meditation. The third way and the fastest way is to take adequate levels of fish oil. The exercise takes about an hour a day, the meditation, it’s too hard to find a comfortable chair but I can take all the fish oil I need in fifteen seconds and call it a day.
What about people who are emotional eaters? Many people with obesity have a history of childhood abuse or neglect, which has been associated with research studies with the development of obesity.
This will come down to two things. You’ll see increased levels of cortisol in those patients, which means they’re constantly hungry. Also, a diminished reward system in the brain that signals eating food is meant to give you pleasure. If the pleasure is not there, you’ve got to keep on eating more and more food. It’s just like the addictive response to get enough of the dopamine getting in the brain saying, “That’s fine. That’s a reward.” In both cases, in terms of reducing the stress and increasing dopamine levels in the brain, fish oil is so powerful, but you have to take a therapeutic dosage.
I know that studies have shown that people who have been abused when they were younger have had a dysregulation of the HPA axis. We’re not sure whether that can be reversed. Has it been your experience that resetting your hormonal balance can perhaps get them off the hook of that constant cortisol influx?
I think the answer is yes. We haven’t done highly controlled clinical studies, but the fact is when you talk about the HPA axis, what you’re dealing with is a hormonal balance. That’s what The Zone Diet is all about. Keeping those hormones that control every aspect of our life, whether it be our emotions, our weight, our health, our longevity. The more you can control those hormones, keep them in the zone, the longer your life and the better your life will be.
You’re not against people meditating or exercising?
No, I recommend them in all of my books.
When people are feeling better, they’re more likely to exercise.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and also when you start doing all the things that give life its meaning.
Any last words?
We’re in a real pickle here in America, but we can get ourselves out. This is going to take a lot of work because of this epigenetic programming, but it can be done. I’m confident that with new technologies, we can reverse the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into in the last three generations.
That’s all the time we have. I’d like to thank Dr. Barry Sears for being our guest. Thank you for joining us. In our next episode, our guest will be Deborah Erickson. We’ll be talking about telepathy, intuition and communication with animals. Until then, I wish you good health and vitality.
About Dr. Barry Sears
Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the dietary control of hormonal response. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 30 years to the study of lipids. He holds 13 U.S. Patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
A turning point in his research occurred in 1982. That year the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for discoveries of the role that specialized hormones known as eicosanoids play in the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, and cancer. Since eicosanoids are only generated from dietary fat, Dr. Sears reasoned that one could apply intravenous drug-delivery principles to nutrition in order to control these exceptionally powerful hormonal responses with laser-like precision. In essence, his approach treats food as if it were a drug.
This area of his research led to various patents in the area of hormonal control by essentially using food as an oral drug-delivery system to modulate eicosanoids, especially for cardiovascular, diabetic, and neurological patients.
The impact of Dr. Sears’ revolutionary work in the dietary control of hormonal response began with the publication of his landmark book, The Zone. Since its publication in June 1995, The Zone has sold more than 2,000,000 hardcover copies and became a #1 best-seller on the New York Times book list. In addition, The Zone has been translated into 22 languages, indicating a worldwide response to
Dr. Sears’ research. His second book, Mastering the Zone, published in 1997, also became a New York Times’ bestseller with hardcover sales in excess of 500,000 copies to date. His third book, Zone Perfect Meals in Minutes, published in 1997, quickly became one of the best-selling cookbooks of 1997 and another New York Times bestseller.