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Vegetarianism

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Also listed as: Diet, Zone
Related terms
Background
Theory/evidence
Safety
Author information
Bibliography
History

Related Terms
  • Adequate protein diet, Barry Sears, carbohydrate, diet, fat, low carbohydrate diet, protein.

Background
  • The Zone diet is an unproven dietary regime, which has been popularized by Dr. Barry Sears through sales of his 1995 book, The Zone. Despite claims made in the book, there is little available research to support its overall benefit.
  • The Zone diet is a calorie-restricted diet that provides adequate protein, moderate levels of carbohydrates, essential fats and micronutrients spread through three meals and two snacks that approximately maintain the protein-to-carbohydrate ratio throughout the day.
  • Proponents believe that the Zone diet promotes optimal metabolic efficiency in the body by balancing the hormones insulin and glucagon. Insulin is responsible for converting, in the blood, incoming nutrients into cells. Glucagon regulates glucose in the liver. Overall, the Zone's food plan consists of a dietary intake of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat.
  • Under this diet, recommended foods include fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen), oatmeal (whole grain), protein powder (e.g. soybean isolate), chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish, low-fat cottage cheese, soy food, nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, macademia, pistachios), extra virgin olive oil, natural sweeteners, such as fructose or stevia.

Theory / Evidence
  • Recent research seems to indicate that a low total caloric intake is associated with longer life expectancy. Based on animal studies, animals eating calorie-restricted diets may live 1.5 to 2 times as long as animals eating high-calorie diets. Theoretically, similar effects may occur in humans. The caloric restriction recommended by the Zone diet is below that of the average American and may be of benefit in weight loss and if maintained over decades in increasing life expectancy. On the other hand, athletes in training will likely suffer from decreased performance if restricted to the low calorie diet recommended by the Zone.
  • Despite proposed benefits, currently there are no high quality clinical trials available about the Zone diet or similar diets consisting of the recommended 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein. The Zone diet is quite complex in terms of caloric restriction, ratio of carbohydrates/protein//fat, spacing of meals, preferential intake of certain fats, and avoidance or inclusion of a few specific foods.

Safety




Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Cheuvront SN. The zone diet and athletic performance. Sports Med. 1999;27(4):213-228.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  3. Sears B. The Zone Diet and athletic performance. Sports Med. 2000;29(4):289-294.

History
  • Vegetarianism has been common in the Indian subcontinent, since possibly the 2nd millennium BC for spiritual reasons, such as ahimsa (nonviolence), to avoid indulgences (as meat was considered an indulgence), and to reduce bad karmic influences. Hinduism preaches that it is the ideal diet for spiritual progress and Jainism enjoins all its followers to be vegetarian. Some Buddhist monks have also historically practiced vegetarianism.
  • Vegetarians in Europe used to be called "Pythagoreans", after the philosopher Pythagoras, who with his followers abstained from meat in the 6th century BC. These people followed a vegetarian diet for nutritional and ethical reasons.
  • In modern times, Indian vegetarians, primarily lacto-vegetarians, are estimated to make up more than 70% of the world's vegetarians. They make up 20 to 30% of the population in India, while occasional meat-eaters make up another 30%.
  • Most Asian countries had a predominantly vegetarian diet until the past few decades, when increasing industrialization and westernization changed that.
  • In the Western world, the popularity of vegetarianism steadily grew over the 20th century as a result of nutritional, ethical, and more recently, environmental concerns.
  • In a survey the U.S. in 2000 estimated that 2.5% of the population (N=968) were ovo-lacto-vegetarians. In 2003 the same source recorded 2.8% (N=1,031). This indicated a modest growth of 4% per year over the four years. A 1994 and 1997 survey showed about 1% (N=1,960; c.i.=95%). The general trend has been increasing.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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