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5 Anti-aging Diets

Age-Free Zone Diet

With a few modifications of his original The Zone diet book, Dr. Barry Sears has come up with an anti-aging diet plan that can help you lose weight. Sears believes that excess amounts of insulin, blood glucose, cortisol, and free radicals are responsible for the aging process, and his plan is designed to reduce and control them via diet and lifestyle.

Quick Take:

  • Low-carbohydrate, high-protein, calorie-restricted diet
  • Designed to control hormones, especially insulin, to delay aging
  • Includes a detailed prescription for dietary supplements

This Diet Is Best For

People who can't give up or cut back on animal foods, such as meat and chicken, and those who want to cut back on but not severely restrict their carbohydrate intake

Who Should Not Try This Diet

Anyone who needs to watch their protein intake, such as people with kidney problems, should not follow the diet without their doctor's advice.

Although the diet is recommended for people with type 2 diabetes, it is much lower in carbohydrates than what most experts recommend. If you have diabetes, check with your doctor before starting the diet.

The Premise

Though the diet isn't a weight-loss plan per se, calorie restriction is a critical part of it. That's because Sears believes calorie restriction is a guaranteed anti-aging tool. The Age-Free Zone has a diet and lifestyle pyramid, which includes meditation, moderate exercise, and of course, the Zone diet.

But the real focus here is on cutting calories by reducing total carbohydrate intake and eliminating simple carbohydrates. The point is to control insulin, although the plan covers control of several other hormones, including thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, and melatonin, all of which lead to accelerated aging and weight gain, according to Sears.

The Rationale

Sears' anti-aging theory claims that calorie restriction not only helps you lose weight but also reduces free radical production and excess blood glucose and insulin levels. All of these can be detrimental to your health. The key to effective calorie restriction, says Sears, is to determine the minimum level of carbohydrate you need to function efficiently.

Sticking to the minimum will allow the body to perform its daily functions without causing overproduction of free radicals, glucose, or insulin. In addition to a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, Sears recommends a wide variety of antioxidant, anti-aging supplements. However, food and exercise are Sears' ultimate "drugs" of choice to control and reduce excess hormone production.

Food on the Age-Free Zone Diet

The diet plan is divided into three meals and two snacks a day. Meals consist of three choices from each group (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) for women and four choices from each group for men. The diet book provides two weeks' worth of menus, as well as several recipes that are incorporated into the sample menus.

A typical day's menus might include soy patties, low-fat cheese, and fruit salad for breakfast; tossed salad with oil and vinegar dressing, turkey breast, reduced-fat cheese, and a pear for lunch; fish, olive oil, tomatoes with Parmesan cheese, green beans, and grapes for dinner; and two snacks during the day. The book also provides brief lists of protein, carbohydrate, fat, and snack choices around which you can plan your meals.

The basic Zone meal guidelines are:

  1. Always eat within one hour after waking.
  2. Never let more than five hours go by without eating a Zone meal or snack, whether you are hungry or not.
  3. Include some protein at every meal and snack.
  4. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and ease off the bread, pasta, grains, and starches.
  5. Always eat your snack.
  6. Drink at least 64 ounces of liquid each day.
  7. Eat a snack 30 minutes before exercise.

What the Experts Say About the Age-Free Zone Diet

Despite Sears' claim that determining the minimum amount of carbohydrate is key to forestalling aging, he gives no general recommendations for how to determine that intake nor any specifics about how to tailor the diet plan to meet your own needs.

Though much of what Sears says about free radical damage, insulin levels, and calorie restriction is based on research studies, he carries the theory a couple of steps beyond what research has actually shown. He recommends a lot of unnecessary and potentially dangerous combinations of supplements to augment his anti-aging program.

If you follow Sears' diet plan of 1,200 calories a day for women and 1,500 calories a day for men, you should be able to lose weight, but you could fall short on some important nutrients, such as B vitamins and calcium, which are particularly important for the over-50 dieter. However, Sears does recommend vitamin and mineral supplements, including calcium, to make up the difference.

Still, the diet is too high in protein and too low in complex carbohydrates and fiber, which could leave you low on energy and constipated. And while Sears advocates the diet for people with type 2 diabetes, most diabetes experts recommend a diet much higher in carbohydrates than the plan provided in the book.

Calorie quota: Women should consume about 1,200 calories a day; men about 1,500 calories day.

Yes: Calorie restriction; fruits, vegetables, protein at each meal and snack; a limited amount of complex carbohydrates; healthy fats

No: High-carbohydrate foods, high fat foods, processed foods, low-fiber foods

Other similar diets: SugarBusters!; Eat More, Weigh Less; Dr. Atkins' Age Defying Diet Revolution; Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

In the next section, get the facts about another popular anti-aging diet -- the Eat Right, Live Longer Diet.