The Mediterranean Zone: Unleash the Power of the World's Healthiest Diet for Superior Weight Loss, Health, and Longevity

The Mediterranean Zone: Unleash the Power of the World's Healthiest Diet for Superior Weight Loss, Health, and Longevity

by Barry Sears


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804179171
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/21/2014
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 239,024
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Barry Sears, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading medical researchers on the hormonal effects of food. He is the author of fourteen books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller The Zone, and the New York Times bestsellers Mastering the Zone and Zone-Perfect Meals in Minutes. His books have sold more than six million copies in the United States and have been translated into twenty-two languages. Dr. Sears has been a frequent guest on many national programs, including 20/20, Today, Good Morning America, and CBS Morning News. He continues his research into the role of the inflammatory process in diabetes, heart disease, and neurological disorders as the president of the nonprofit Inflammation Research Foundation. The father of two grown daughters, Dr. Sears lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts, with his wife, Lynn.

Read an Excerpt

The Zone at 20
When I wrote my first book, The Zone, in 1995, I was careful not to use the word diet in the title. In fact, the book was written for cardiologists to alert them to the power of food to alter hormonal responses, especially those hormones involved in inflammation. The book was meant as a clarion call to the medical community that the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet being recommended to the American public by the medical establishment was going to lead to epidemics of obesity and diabetes driven by increased inflammation. Not inflammation caused by a microbe or an injury, but inflammation caused by what we were eating.
The focus of The Zone was on a little known group of hormones called eicosanoids. Even though the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for understanding the importance of these hormones in driving inflammation, outside of a few in academic medicine, by 1995 still virtually no one knew anything about them.
I knew that getting attention for the book was going to be a challenge, and my publisher readily agreed. So neither of us was surprised that the initial sales of The Zone were modest and quickly petered out. I was convinced that the right message wasn’t getting across, and that the media were looking at this book as just another fad diet book. Recklessly (without telling my wife), I went in search of a publicity firm that could help reposition the message of The Zone.
Since I grew up in Los Angeles, I figured if you could publicize films, you probably could do the same for books—even technical books on diet-induced inflammation. (Talk about being naïve.) So I went to the top PR firm in Hollywood and asked them if they had ever publicized a book. Their answer was no, but they were not willing turn a client away, so Michael Keaton’s press agent became the head of their new book publicity department with me as their first client.
I told them the only way I could judge their efforts was by any increase in book sales (which wouldn’t be too hard). Not much happened at first, but with only about four more weeks to go before my money ran out, I caught a break when Dennis Prager, a prominent LA radio talk show host, agreed to have me on his program because we both shared the same publisher. Although he liked the book, he made it clear that if there weren’t any callers in the first fifteen minutes, he would have to take me off the air. I told him I was just happy to get a chance to discuss the book. Three hours later, the phone lines were still jammed with callers, and I was still on the show. The book became the #1 best seller in Los Angeles the next week and a month later the #1 best seller on the New York Times book list. This only confirms the old saying, “Given the choice of being good or being lucky, always opt for being lucky.”
Of course, with this new success my two most dreaded words—fad diet—were immediately attached to the book. Although the word diet comes from the ancient Greek root meaning “way of life,” it has been corrupted to imply a short-term period of hunger and deprivation to try to look good in a swimsuit. A fad is a short-term phenomenon without substance that will soon fade. Put these two words together, and you have fad diet. Some fad diets are simply ridiculous, such as the Drinking Man’s Diet. Other fad diets, unfortunately, gain substantial credence, such as the low-fat, high-carbohydrate (rich in grains and starches) diet supported by the USDA in the early 1990s. This fad had the initial support of the government and the medical establishment, but it’s clear today that this policy led to an explosion of obesity in America.
That’s why I developed the concept of the Zone—not as a diet or a weight-loss program, but as a dietary road map for reaching and maintaining a constant hormonal balance that allows the body to operate at peak efficiency. The Zone is a real physiological state that can be measured in the body—a metabolic state that, once you reach it, works quickly to dramatically diminish your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic health issues. Reaching the Zone and staying there requires a dietary lifestyle change that has to be followed for a lifetime, but it is one that will allow us to look, feel, and live healthier for many years to come.
For several years after the publication of The Zone, I spent my time like any good politician pressing the flesh trying to explain the mysterious world of hormones and inflammation. Now, nearly twenty years later, the once radical concept of the Zone seems almost old-fashioned, because today most diet books stress that hormones are involved in weight gain—excess insulin makes you fat and keeps you fat. Likewise, most diet books tell you if you eat too many white carbohydrates (bread, pasta, and pizza), you are going to gain weight.
But very few of today’s diet books talk about inflammation as the underlying cause of why these things happen, and why it’s so critical to control.
The reason the Zone concept went from being labeled a fad diet to mainstream nutrition is the science. When The Zone was first published, one of the few people who actually bought the book was David Ludwig, then a young Harvard Medical School instructor. (He is now a full professor at Harvard and one of the leading researchers in the study of obesity.) Actually, David first read the book with an academic’s skeptical eye, concerned about pseudoscience lurking behind another fad diet. After reading the book and seeing the early scientific support (it was the first diet book to actually contain scientific references), he asked me to give a seminar to his colleagues in the division of endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital at Harvard.
So I gave my seminar, and at the end I asked if there were any obvious fallacies to my concepts. The answer was no, since everyone seemed to be satisfied that everything I said was theoretically reasonable. Intrigued by my presentation, David decided to test my Zone concept in a controlled-feeding study. He used internal funds at Children’s Hospital, because his initial attempts to get government funding for this “radical” idea were rejected.
Sure enough, David and his group found my predictions about the ability of the Zone Diet (and in particular just a single meal put together based on the Zone principles) to alter hormonal responses were true. Since then, one carefully controlled study after another has confirmed what I hypothesized twenty years ago about the power of food to control hormonal responses and reduce inflammation.
Has anything changed in my thinking about the Zone over the years? Well, yes and no. The Zone was the first book to describe anti-inflammatory diets and how the hormonal response to diet could either increase or decrease the levels of inflammation in the body. The Zone Diet provides a dietary blueprint for balancing food ingredients on your plate for optimal hormonal, inflammatory, and genetic control for a lifetime (as opposed to being “on a diet” and constantly hungry and fatigued in order to lose a few pounds). Nothing has changed about that basic concept. But new research continues to demonstrate just how critical it is that we act now to bring inflammation under control and how certain food ingredients can enhance the process.
Breakthroughs in molecular biology and genetics have greatly expanded our understanding of the importance of the diet in turning on and off our genes. In particular, it involves new insights in understanding how the most primitive part of our immune system responds to certain nutrients. Even more important is how our diet can further alter the expression of our genes for several generations through the new knowledge of “epigenetics.” Epigenetics is like the cloud in the world of computers. It controls the expression of our genes and is strongly influenced by our environment, in particular our diet. More important, epigenetics explains how chemical markers can be left on our genes that can be amplified and transmitted to the next generation.
The Zone idea remains at the cutting edge of nutritional science because new discoveries keep adding depth to my basic concept. I first described the use of high-dose omega-3 fatty acids for anti-inflammatory control in The OmegaRx Zone, published in 2002. The Mediterranean Zone extends my basic Zone concept by describing the power of polyphenols—the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color—to further enhance the metabolic control of our genes and also to slow down the aging process.
The title of this book, The Mediterranean Zone, might suggest it will cater to those who simply want to hear that eating pasta with a little more Parmesan cheese, drinking a little more red wine, adding some olive oil to your meals, or sipping a cappuccino with a piece of dark chocolate are the essence of the dietary program. In fact, the key feature of the diets in virtually every region that borders the Mediterranean Sea is not pasta but colorful carbohydrates rich in polyphenols. We finally have enough scientific sophistication to realize it is the high levels of colorful polyphenols that make the Mediterranean diet uniquely protective against aging, not the white pasta.
This book is divided into four parts. Part I puts the useful stuff right up front as it describes how to master the Mediterranean Zone. Part II describes the science of polyphenols. Part III describes how the industrialization of food led to an epidemic of inflammation in America that is now spreading worldwide due to globalization. Finally, Part IV describes the future that makes the concepts of the Mediterranean Zone more important than ever in reversing our current health-care crisis.
I know that after reading this book, you will agree that the continued evolution of my Zone concept is more relevant today than when it was first presented nearly twenty years ago. And with the Mediterranean Zone, it gets even more delicious!

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction: The Zone at 20 xiii

The Zone at a Glance xix

Part I Mastering the Mediterranean Zone

1 The Coming Reckoning 3

2 Inflammation: The Real Reason We Gain Weight, Get Sick, and Age at a Faster Rate 7

3 Mastering the Zone Diet for a Lifetime 16

4 The Mediterranean Diet: Facts and Fiction 27

5 The Mediterranean Zone: The Evolution of the Mediterranean Diet 32

6 Anti-inflammatory Supplements for the Mediterranean Zone 62

Part II The Science of Polyphenols

7 Polyphenols: The Next Essential Nutrients 81

8 Polyphenols and Gut Health 88

9 Polyphenols and Oxidative Stress 93

10 Polyphenols and Longevity 100

Part III The Industrialization of Food

11 The Industrialization of Food and the Rise of Diet-Induced Inflammation 105

12 Chasing the Wrong Food Villains 110

Part IV The Future of Medicine

13 Epigenetics: Opening Pandora's Genetic Box 125

14 Reclaiming Our Genetic Future 131

Appendix A Continuing Support 137

Appendix B The Science of Diet-Induced Inflammation 139

Appendix C Inflammation and Obesity 153

Appendix D Inflammation and Chronic Disease 165

Appendix E Inflammation and Aging 173

Appendix F The Clinical Markers of Wellness 179

Appendix G Polyphenol Values 187

Appendix H References 203

Index 233

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