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Written By: Dr. Barry Sears Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on April 25, 2016

If you've been told you have Type 2 Diabetes, chances are, you were also told that you had better get used to it, and that it will be a life-long condition. In fact, if you develop diabetes by age 40, there is clear data that shows the condition will take 11-14 years off your lifespan. You could have gastric bypass surgery and reverse the symptoms of diabetes before you even lose any weight. But then you risk a lifetime of malnutrition. Gastric bypass is NOT your only option.

Hope for People with Diabetes

A recent New York Times article entitled “Hope for Reversing Type 2 Diabetes” addressed this question. It's not a new miracle drug. Instead, the article states the old-fashioned method of losing weight and keeping it off can reverse diabetes.

However, another article soon to be published in Diabetes Care, “Very low calorie diet and 6 months of weight stability in type 2 diabetes,” has a new breakthrough in treating diabetes. Is this really a new breakthrough? Or is this just an absence of knowledge of diabetes research that is once again rising to the surface.

In fact, while losing weight will cause a rapid decrease in blood sugar levels, it’s not just the weight loss, but the reduction in insulin resistance that is the real secret to reversing diabetes. This is also the reason that gastric bypass surgery works to reduce blood sugar before any appreciable weight loss is seen. When people are eating less, which they would after gastric bypass surgery, their pancreas produces less insulin because there is less sugar in the blood.

The Zone Got It Right Years Ago – And It Continues To Be Right Today

In the Diabetes Care study, diabetic patients were placed on a liquid Zone-like diet (40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat) using medical shakes that provided 1,100 calories per day. This diabetic study was published three years after I wrote The Zone giving the same dietary advice. I wonder if that is a coincidence. On that liquid diet, participants were provided with 110 grams of carbohydrate, 82 grams of protein and 45 grams of fat.

The study proved that these are all reasonable amounts of nutrients and they are balanced.  Within four days of starting these shakes, all indications of insulin resistance were gone before any weight was lost. This is the same result that is seen in gastric bypass surgery.

So in other words, the appropriate balance of nutrients and the right amount of calories was beneficial to reducing insulin resistance, and are very effective in the long-term treatment of type 2 diabetics. This is essentially identical to my Zone Diet recommendations almost two decades ago.

The reason all of these “old” dietary interventions work is because they decrease insulin resistance. It is the reduction of insulin resistance, rather than simple weight loss that reverses diabetes.

Overlooking the successes of previously published literature, another study used an even lower calorie diet of 624 calories consisting of three “medical” shakes and then letting the subjects consume up to another four cups of non-starchy vegetables providing another 100 calories for whopping maximum of 724 calories per day for six weeks.

That calorie intake was low enough to cause the body to defend itself from what it perceives as starvation and ironically caused insulin resistance. At 1,100 calories per day, those innate biological defense mechanisms are usually circumvented leading to a reduction of insulin resistance. This may have been why about 60% of study participants had no insulin resistance reduction. It also shows that a desirable caloric intake, and correct food choices, can reduce insulin resistance and help prevent or reverse diabetes – just like in The Zone.

How to Reverse Diabetes in Real Life

The real secret for treating Type 2 Diabetes is to keep insulin resistance under control for a lifetime. To do that, there has to be a reasonable alternative to either gastric bypass surgery or using “medical” shakes that get boring quickly, since people don’t live their lives and eat meals within the vacuum of scientific studies.

That’s why I developed Zone PastaRx® several years ago  ̶  to make it easier to consume all of the non-starchy vegetables needed to reduce insulin resistance without boredom. In fact, you could think of Zone Pasta as a “vegetable helper.”

Frankly, when given a choice between eating a bowl of vegetables, or a bowl of pasta with vegetables in it, most people would choose the pasta with vegetables. Using Zone Pasta as replacement for protein, it is now easy to maintain the ideal dietary conditions to reduce insulin resistance long-term.

My recent clinical study supports this statement. In this study, subjects had to eat prepared meals consisting of pasta and non-starchy vegetables twice a day for six weeks. Each meal had an equal amount of calories. The cooking was done for them. All they had to do was warm it up in a microwave and eat. The only difference was that one group got pasta meals containing our Patented Performance Protein in Zone PastaRx, and the other group got pasta meals made with gluten-free pasta.

Unlike most diet studies, the compliance for both types of pasta (even with the inclusion of non-starchy vegetables) was excellent. Both diets were also calorie-restricted so that the weight loss was equal in both groups.

There was no reduction of insulin resistance in the subjects getting the gluten-free pasta, whereas those eating the Zone Pasta had their insulin resistance reduced by 26%. This study proves that to treat and reverse Type 2 Diabetes, the focus has to be on reducing insulin resistance through diet rather than simply trying to lose weight. Zone Pasta can help people stick to a diet that reduces insulin resistance.

Do You Have Insulin Resistance?

You don’t have to be diabetic to have insulin resistance. In fact, according to studies, 16% of healthy, normal weight individuals have significant levels of insulin resistance. This increases to 31% in an otherwise-healthy, obese individual, indicating that you can’t tell if you have insulin resistance simply based on weight alone.

By the time people develop metabolic syndrome or diabetes, which is likely when following the Standard American Diet, the percentage of those with significant insulin resistance rises to 100%. According to a recent article in JAMA, as of 2012, more than 50% of American adults have significant levels of insulin resistance. This trend is not good news for the future of health or health care in America.

Because of this growing epidemic of insulin resistance, I urge you to take our Insulin Resistance Quiz to see how much insulin resistance you may actually have. If your levels are high, you should consider using Zone Pasta as a “vegetable helper” by following a wide variety Zone Pasta meals which are all under 400 calories.

If you eat three Zone Pasta meals per day, that’s about 1,200 calories per day. Zone PastaRx Orzo  even makes a great oatmeal dish in the morning. You will also get the right macronutrient balance to reduce insulin resistance, while consuming enough calories to overcome powerful biological defense mechanisms that occur when you restrict calories too much.

Of course, all of these recommendations assume you to like to eat pasta. If you don’t, then there is always either gastric bypass surgery or a lifetime of “tasty” medical shakes to help you manage insulin resistance.New call-to-action


  1. Narayan KM, Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Sorensen SW, and Williamson DF. “Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States.” JAMA 2003 290:884-1890 (2003).
  2. Rabin RC. “Hope for reversing type 2 diabetes.” New York Times, April 18 (2016).
  3. Steven S, Hollingsworth KG, Al-Mraheh A, Avery, L, Aribisala B, Caslake M, and Taylor R. “Very low calorie diet and 6 months of weight stability in type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care doi:10.2337/dc15-1942 (2016).
  4. Sears B and Perry M. “The role of fatty acids in insulin resistance.”
    Lipids Health Dis 14:121 (2015).
  5. Markovic TP, Jenkins AB, Campbell LV, Furler SM, Kraegen EW, and Chisholm DJ. “The determinants of glycemic responses to diet restriction and weight loss in obesity and NIDDM.” Diabetes Care 21:687-694 (1998).
  6. Hamdy O and Carver C. “The Why WAIT program: improving clinical outcomes through weight management in type 2 diabetes.” Curr Diab Rep 8:413-420 (2008).
  7. McLaughlin T, Allison G, Abbasi F, Lamendola C, and Reaven G. “Prevalence of insulin resistance and associated cardiovascular disease risk factors among normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals.” Metabolism 2004 53:495-499 (2004).
  8. Menke A, Casagrande S, Geiss L, and Cowie CC. “Prevalence of and trends in diabetes among adults in the United States, 1988-2012.” JAMA 314:1021-1029 (2015).

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