UC Berkeley News


Letter to the editor

25 February 2004


When I read your article on alternatives to low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets (“Eat Smart, Get Fit,” Feb. 5), I was appalled that you lumped the Zone in the same category with the Atkins diet, calling it a low-carbohydrate diet.

While the Zone does emphasize a lower intake of carbohydrates — especially those that derive from simple sugars and refined grains — it’s not accurate to characterize it as a completely low-carb diet. The focus of the Zone is to eat many complex carbohydrates (or carbohydrates bound up in fiber), as well as to increase protein intake. High-fiber foods tend to contain a lot of water as well, contrary to what’s asserted in the article.

Please read more about said diets before writing about them.

— Jason Knisley

Helen Pak, the University Health Services nutritionist quoted in the article, responds:

I would like to explain why the Zone diet, along with the Atkins and Sugar Busters diets, is categorized as an LCHP diet. All three diets promote eating fewer carbohydrates and more protein than is recommended by the American Dietetic Association, the professional body with whose recommendations I must ethically comply.

The Zone advises a dietary regimen of 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 30 percent fat at each meal and snack. Any diet with less than 50 percent carbohydrates is considered LCHP.

As a nutrition professional, I cannot endorse the Zone — or any diet, for that matter — unless it is supported by scientific research published in a peer-reviewed journal. Most studies of LCHP diets that I’m aware of are fewer than 10 years old, were based on findings from a small number of subjects, or were conducted by biased researchers. The ADA standards, by contrast, are longstanding and backed by scientific research.

Nonetheless, please understand that I am not criticizing anyone’s dietary choices and preferences. The purpose of the article was to encourage the average reader who wants to lose weight to do so — by eating smart and getting fit.