The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 989: The Mediterranean Zone Diet (Archive)

Merging the benefits of the Zone diet and the Mediterranean diet, the Mediterranean Zone diet promises flavorful meals that keep hunger in check for hours.
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The Mediterranean Zone Diet (Archive)

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The Zone diet popularized by Dr. Barry Sears was one of the earliest to emphasize the importance of balancing protein, fat and carbohydrate consumption at every meal. Dr. Sears pioneered the idea that the food we eat is more powerful than any drug in controlling the activity of multiple hormones in our bodies.

Many studies have pointed to the value of a Mediterranean diet for reducing heart disease, stroke, dementia and other chronic diseases. How does a Mediterranean diet affect inflammation? And what is a real Mediterranean diet? There are lots of countries around the Mediterranean sea, and typical meals and favorite foods vary from one to another.

Fats from the Sea and  Phytonutrients:

One thing the entire region has in common is a preference for vegetables and fruits rich in phytonutrients that give them strong flavors and bright colors. How do our bodies react to the colors on our plates and the flavors on our tongues? According to Dr. Sears, minimizing white foods (flour, sugar, shortening) as much as we can helps to control blood sugar and reduce inflammation, so long as we pay attention to the Zone way of eating.

Find out about the power of polyphenols from plant foods and the importance of omega 3 fats to maintain good health for life. According to Dr. Sears, all we need is to use a hand, an eye and a watch to set ourselves up for success on the Mediterranean Zone.

The ratios he mentions on the show are the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol (<1 is best) and the ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Ideally, says Dr. Sears, AA/EPA is between 1.5 and 2.

This Week’s Guest:

Barry Sears, PhD, is a biochemist who has become an authority on the dietary control of hormone response. He popularized the concept of The Zone as an anti-inflammatory diet, and he is president of the nonprofit Inflammation Research Foundation. He has written 13 books, including The Zone, Mastering the Zone, The OmegaRx Zone, The Anti-Inflammation Zone, and his most recent, The Mediterranean Zone.

 Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I’m not a fan of onions, and I looked up polyphenols to see what options there are. Did see red onions on the top 100 list. Did see a lot of fruit, carrots, red lettuce, and almonds, but no peppers red or green. I make giant salads with almonds as protein for lunch and dinner. They weigh about 1.5 lb. I don’t know how to achieve 2 lbs tho unless you use all “dense” veggies.

While I’m a big fan of Dr. Sears I don’t subscribe to his diet or others who have recommended similar diets. If what he says is true the Italians who live on bread and pasta would be totally inflamed and diabetic along with having heart problems.

However, here again one is playing with numbers. The death rate of Americans due to heart disease is 77/100,000 people (age adjusted). The death rate of Japanese due to heart disease is 30/100,000 people. So we are only talking about a large percentage change (77/30 x 100%) in a small number to begin with or less then 0.1% of the population. Unfortunately what we readers are always given is the “twice as many” numbers and not the overall (or ‘Big Picture’) figures. Given all the other variables in these studies can we really say that heart disease is largely controlled by diet?

As I’ve posted several times in this venue my grand father and all of his peers had diets that Dr. Sears would cringe at (fat, bread, alcohol, meats, etc.) and yet you rarely heard of heart attacks back in those days. Of course their days also were filled with activity and hard work so maybe we ought to be focusing more on the affects of exercise on health issues instead of diets, drinking alcohol, breads, pizza, etc. As another example of this type I’ve heard from two medical coroners that indicated the veins, arteries, etc. of alcoholics are supple, flexible, and as healthy as a newborns. And yet we hear daily about “do not drink” or “limit your alcohol intake”?? I think we need more scientific evidence (hard biological facts) relative to “causes and effects” rather than rely on percentage changes in the random tracking studies that are so widely used in this day and age.

As others have indicated these kinds of diets are expensive and take time to prepare which doesn’t fit our current life style. This is absolutely true and must be a factor to consider when recommending such diets to the general public.

Todays show really caught my attention. I found myself listening intently.

Many of Dr. Sears ideas made sense to and seemed to be consistent with other research. Some things he said seemed to be confusing and contradictory.

For example:
His idea to eat a lot of colorful vegetables along with substantial protein and limit white foods seemed to make sense. Yet, when he seemed to dismiss green leafy vegetables, it left me wondering what kind of vegetables he was talking about. Then he described an ideal breakfast that was full of white foods like egg whites and oatmeal without mentioning many colorful vegetables?

I still got a lot out of the interview and was able share some of it with my family.

Thanks for all you do!

Wondering why we aren’t talking about the Japanese diet if they have the both the best results in the “oils” test Dr Sears talked about and lower rates of disease and depression?
Also, don’t Mediteraneans eat pasta, bread, pita, rice….

I appreciated Dr. Sears’s explanation of the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, but I think he focused too exclusively on polyphenols. Fruits and vegetables also provide dietary fiber and a range of essential vitamins and minerals, little to none of which would be available in the polyphenol-enriched foods and polyphenol pills that he mentioned.

He also left out dairy products and whole eggs, which–as far as I can tell from recent research–are healthy and economical sources of protein and other nutrients. (His go-to breakfast is an 8-egg-white omelet? Sounds expensive to me. And what does he do with all the yolks?) The Mediterranean diet makes good sense, as does promoting diets rich in produce, especially vegetables. I just would have liked Dr. Sears’s discussion to include a wider variety of foods.

Today’s show was amazing, as many of your interviews are. As a 60-something, I am interested in learning more about Dr, Sears’ concepts, applying practices as applicable AND securing recipes to follow. Does this new book offer this?

Very good show. I was listening very carefully as the information really peaked my interest.

Thanks so much for such an informative show.

I heard this program both on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon on WUNC.

What is remarkable to me is not how delicious were the possible offerings of roasted vegetables, prepared salmon, and all of the delicacies Dr. Sears offered.

My question: Who on earth has time to work 40 hours a week and prepare even one half of his offerings. What time does he get up to prepare such a breakfast? Who does the preparation, chopping, etc….? Great in theory but in practice…? And neither he or you asked the questions about how one could fit his prescription for healthy living into our lives.

Interesting show but totally without advice or support. Great in theory but poor in help.

“Good” veggies 2x/day is the way to go, and is doable (anyone can do 2x/day if it is a goal)…it works!

Dr. Sears has some interesting ideas which are applicable to upper class people who live in more affluent areas. In poor areas and including most of the Midwest and South there are few healthy options for food in grocery stores and all the rest is really junk. Fish, away from the coasts, is farmfed – the fryer vat oils from Burger King, after they have abused the marginal oil for weeks. Chicken is the same problem. The Waltons have pushed the price and quality to very low points. Vegetables and fruits this time of year have been in the warehouses in Illinois since fall after being picked so green they have no essential monosaccharrides/I am uncertain about polyphenols, – but they look colorful after gassing and before they all rot with the same black warehouse mold. It is hard to get great olive oil as 60% more is sold than can possibly be produced – but in poor areas it is hard to get food without oxidized fatty acids in any part of the store. I bought some range cubes to lead my goats around more effectively – the ingredients included a bad oil and the ants won’t eat it – so I burned it to avoid poisoning anything – did your cow eat some of those cubes? Food recommendations are impossible for the whole country – primum non nocere. There is no mediterranean diet available in some of the country.

This was a great show chock full of useful and practical information. I bought the CD and plan to share with my doctor who is also a friend of mine. Thanks so much! Best show ever? Seriously good. I also shared on Facebook.

Great program today… I was heading out the door and stopped dead in my tracks and started taking notes. Very helpful information as both my husband and I are experiencing a decline in health recently that is a dramatic shift from what we’ve experienced in the previous 4 decades of our lives.

Did Dr. Sears ever give a recommendation for high quality fish oil supplements or fish or where we might get them. Mentioning that most of the fish oil sold in stores is of a poor quality, I wondered what he recommended? I am hesitant to buy just any supplement.

I will definitely be asking my Primary Care Physician, Dr. Larry Berman, if he can give me my numbers A.A. : EPA ration using the test mentioned by Barry Sears.

Also, it was of great interest to hear that administering high doses of Omega-3 Fatty Acids 5 mg or more can serve as a substitue to the biologicals being prescribed for those with rheumatoid arthritis. My husband has been on Humira for over 9 years with no relief in sight. His rheumatologist is now suggesting he move up to a biologic medicine that is given via I.V.

Mediterranean diet is not pasta or pizza only Most of us eat vegetables and fruits 75 to 80 % of our meal. Pasta is mostly eaten in Italy. In Portugal and Spain for example we eat more beans and roots than pasta, the same in Greece + But we eat Most: vegetables, roots, fruits and nuts (in small quantities) every day in one or two meals a day and or snacks…. and we do not drink sodas, only water or wine on the table with the meal. Soda only when you go to the restaurant , cafe or holiday.

They rarely mention or promote brands on People’s Pharmacy. I have had good luck with Carlson’s Norwegian Fish Oil and Cod liver oil for years. I did my homework and was satisfied it is very high quality and also pure. It is expensive. I do not waste time with capsules, buy it by the bottle. Vita Cost sells it at a discount and makes it more affordable for me. I hope your husband’s RA improves, wish him the best. Perhaps you could also give him Curcumerin and bovine colostrum to lower inflammation and support his immune system. Good luck and best wishes.

Have been a big fan of Dr. Sears and his theories and teachings. His books are a staple (no pun intended) for educating my patients.

It is sad that even today, when we hear the term Mediterranean diet we think of large plates of pasta with a variety of sauces, some which don’t even contain vegetables. This is how the restaurant business has been selling Mediterranean (Italian) for decades. (Along with Pizza – LOL) Before your Mediterranean diet ideas can become general, there has to be a way to convince restaurants and public media to stop putting pasta and pizza in our mental library to picture Mediterranean foods. (So Sad)

I agree totally with your comment. Restaurants are preying on customers who are not well informed on what a Mediterranean diet is, so they think that they’re eating healthy. Although, who in this day and age would think that pasta and pizza is healthy ?! I’m thinking there are a lot though. A friend of mine didn’t know what a carbohydrate was, and I had to explain the different types, and that’s just one person.

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