The Zone Diet phenomenon: a closer look at the science behind the claims

J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Feb;22(1):9-17. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2003.10719271.


The purported health benefits of low-carbohydrate diets have been advocated intermittently over the last century and have enjoyed increasing popularity over the last decade. Although most revolve around the emphatic theme that carbohydrates are to blame for many chronic diseases, their specific ideologies are more variable and in some cases quite sophisticated. The Zone Diet phenomenon represents a new generation of modern low carbohydrate food fad with sales placing it among the most popular diet books in recent history. The Zone is a 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat eating plan that advocates only sparing use of grains and starches. The precise 0.75 protein to carbohydrate ratio required with each meal is promoted to reduce the insulin to glucagon ratio, which purportedly affects eicosanoid metabolism and ultimately produces a cascade of biological events leading to a reduction in chronic disease risk, enhanced immunity, maximal physical and mental performance, increased longevity and permanent weight loss. There is presently little scientific support for the connections made between diet, endocrinology and eicosanoid metabolism. In fact, a review of the literature suggests that there are scientific contradictions in the Zone Diet hypothesis that cast unquestionable doubt on its potential efficacy. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the scientific merit of the Zone Diet and its health claims in an effort to help delineate what is and what is not sound nutrition science.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet Fads*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Eicosanoids / metabolism
  • Energy Intake
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Obesity / prevention & control


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Eicosanoids
  • Insulin