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Diet, Inflammation and Disease, Parts 1 - 3 by Dr. Barry Sears - CrossFit Journal

In Nutrition, Reference, Videos

August 21, 2009

Video Article

The primary cause of most long term illnesses is inflammation, says Dr. Barry Sears, creator of the Zone Diet. New! Part 3 added.

In the final analysis, it’s all about your genes, especially how an anti-inflammatory diet, like the Zone Diet, can turn off inflammatory genes and simultaneously turn on anti-inflammatory genes that promote cellular rejuvenation, repair and healing. Your ability to control inflammation becomes the molecular definition of wellness. Furthermore, both physical and mental performance are optimized with an anti-inflammatory diet.

Dr. Sears presented on this relationship between diet, inflammation, disease and performance to a crowd of CrossFitters on August 8, 2009 in Tustin, CA.

The first part includes Coach Greg Glassman’s introduction of Dr. Sears. The two started working together back in 1994. Then Dr. Sears introduces this basic relationship.
9min 45sec

In the second part, more details about “silent” inflammation, the kind that doesn’t create pain, but can be around for decades and cause many of the common long term illnesses. The perfect storm causing the worldwide epidemic of obesity consists of refined carbohydrates, cheap vegetable oils, and reduced Omega-3 consumption.
11min 54sec

In the third part, Dr. Sears talks about how the Zone is the best diet for reducing silent inflammation. The Zone is a moderate diet in which the hormonal response to food is balanced (through controlled quantities). The net result is reduced insulin secretion, reduced Omega-6 fatty acid intake, and reduced production of toxic fat (which leads to better athletic performance).
13min 43sec

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Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:


42 Comments on “Diet, Inflammation and Disease, Parts 1 - 3”


wrote …

OMG i was waiting for this from the moment i say you where organising this!!!
i have to get up in 5h... but i'll be Damned if dont watch it before i go to sleep!!


wrote …

Great video, extremely informative... been trying to get into the Zone... started about a week ago. I've had some difficulty finding good meal plans that don't require cooking. I'm with Pat S. in that I have no desire or time to cook a meal and I prefer something that I can throw together in 5-10 min... anybody have any suggestions?

Normally I would just go with sandwiches, but I know bread is unfavorable carbs and 1/2 a slice is a block so two slices hammers most of your carbs... and I saw Pat saying that he tries not to eat cheese... why?

And any suggestions on paleo, what to buy, can you get it at a grocery store or just farmers markets or what? I'm trying to get a solid handle on my nutrition after having been crossfitting for about a year and half now.

I know everyone is busy but if anybody has any suggestions/meals/any response at all, it'd be much appreciated.

Thanks for all the videos, they've helped a lot!



Cody Limbaugh wrote …

Think simple- My meals may not be perfect but check out a couple of my blog posts by clicking on my name. You'll see pics of the below...
1-Deli meat (get best quallity you can afford)
2-Raw veggies or fruit depending on timing and goals (post work out/ fat loss etc...)
3-A few raw almonds...nuts/seeds

You can put together almost infinate combinations of flavors using this format and it is as cheep and easy as that one girl....

Without a doubt check out robb wolf's website and dig in to the nutrition found there!

Good luck!


replied to comment from Davo Adams

I've had good results doing the following -

1. Cook 1 pound of protein in the morning or night before and cut it into my portions.
2. Get a bunch of raw veggies and fruit.
3. Olive Oil for the fat

Thats my simple 19 year old plan to following the zone anyway. I can't stand all those fancy recipes and things posted online.


wrote …


Thanks, that's helpful... that's kind of what I had been going for so far. I guess I've just got some confusion from different sources. Like I've heard/read some that say avoid cheese, milk, etc... processed stuff... essentially eat paleo. After reading some of the stuff on Robb's blog, it seems like he's advocating for paleo over weighing and measuring? I've found even in WAM in the last few days, my energy level has been better over the course of the entire day, so I'm not sure about just switching to paleo... besides the fact that I have no idea what paleo even entails as far as specific foods? Is there a paleo food list?

Sorry with the questions, but I'm just trying to figure something out and stick to it. I'm not too picky when it comes to food, right now I just want to get a meal plan down on paper, and I don't care if it's repetitive, if it works I'll stick to it.




wrote …

I love how simply he breaks the issues down. Please post the rest of this lecture soon.


wrote …

1) is there research that demonstrates that the quantity of intake of omega6 is increases eicosanoids and if so what is the nature of the relationship (directly proportional)?

2) how does insulin plus omega6 = really bad? what's the mechanism

3) i remember he said its bad to eat saturated fat and egg yolks because of the eicosanoids in mastering the zone. i remember in good calories, bad calories, taubes said the majority of the fat in a steak is MUFA, some PUFA, and only a small proportion of SFA, most of which is stearic acid which is good?? lipid biochemistry + layman nutrition/diet advice = confusion.

he explains his points in very simple terms, but i wish there could be a little bit more explanation of his research that backs up his ideas and to actually have researchers in lipid metabolism there to peer review and critique.


wrote …

His book Toxic Fat has citations at the back for some of the science. Also, he's got a website specific to the science:
I've been feeling great, been in the Zone (including nonfat dairy) for about 2 months now. I'm not getting kickbacks here (heh) but if you are taking a highly-refined fish oil it's worth checking out the Zone types of fish oil available off the zone site because the ratio of epa/dha per gram is significant, probably much better than what you are taking now...


wrote …

Great stuff. I hope that the rest of the lecture will be posted as well.


wrote …

Superb stuff. I attended a seminar with Udo Erasmus in the UK on Good Fats/Bad Fats and Dr Sears has the same philosophy of inflammation and getting Omega 3 and 6 in balance. I know lots of us are eating nuts on the paleo diet but only walnuts contain significant omega 3 apparently.
I have just ordered Mastering the Zone after starting Crossfitting.
I look forward to next installment


wrote …

Coach looks like he's been Zoning. He appears lighter and healthier.


wrote …

coach looks damn good! wonder what his Fran time is?


wrote …

In January 2007, before CrossFit and before the Zone entered my life, I was placed on a prescription for Zocor, or Simvastatin, because I had low HDL cholesterol. That was something I had known about for years prior, but no doctor ever had any advice for addressing it. I remember one guy saying to be sure to use olive oil when I was cooking, advice that was vague at best - and which I followed, though it didn't make much difference.

I started CrossFit a year ago, discovered Coach's jaw dropping videos on nutrition, and RAN to the bookstore for books on the Zone. At around the same time, my latest bottle of Zocor was running out. Following the idea that 'food is the most powerful drug,' I gave myself six months of Zoning before I went in for a set of comprehensive tests (blood, urine, prostate antigens - the Full Monty for a 44 year old male) to see if if I should resume the drugs.

I slammed the results like my 20-minute drop in Murph times. Everything was 'ideal,' as the doctor put it. Gone was the need for any statins, most importantly. The total cholesterol was low, and the HDL was up in the right ratio. These 12 months have me operating like I'm 20 years younger.

I'm indebted to Coach Glassman and Dr. Sears - astonished, really, at the fate they've spared me, but I was equally mystified by the reaction of my doctor that day. Everything was 'quite excellent,' I remember him saying, but he refused to make any comment on the Zone. I even held up the book I brought with me. 'This is a hell of a thing,' I said, but he wouldn't enter a conversation. Despite knowing my history, he would not approve, even casually, of something that worked so well.
He merely interpreted my results, something I had already done for the most part mucking around on-line, and I walked out, through the waiting room filled with obese children and adults similarly waiting for his indifferent analysis.


wrote …

Thomas, that is amazing. Congrats!
So fellow crossfitters I was thinking...instead of Obama taxing us more for everyones health care, why don't we just tax the obese more. Or maybe better (and more PC) give tax breaks to those of us that can say pass standardized fitness tests. Just some food (zone of course) for thought.

Can't wait for the rest of the lecture.


wrote …

Thomas, its stories like yours that continually renew faith in all crossfitters and I want to thank you for sharing that. I am a CrossFit trainer working in a globo gym and have many clients in similar situations who choose to be on a plethora of pills rather than give up bread and pasta. I am asked for nutrition advice on a daily basis and always refer people to the Zone/Paleo methods as well as Robb Wolf's website, but very few have actually taken the plunge.

I myself was crossfitting for over a year before I fully bought in to the Zone/Paleo diet as well as weighing and measuring. It wasn't until I attended Robb's CrossFit Nutrition Certification (I highly recommend this anyone, best 9 hours you'll ever spend thinking about food) that I decided to really give this a shot and after a rough adjustment period I feel better than ever and have been chopping MINUTES off of some of my best WOD times. Do yourselves a favor, take a month, follow the plan, be serious about it, and you'll never look back (except on your cheat day of course).


wrote …

Extremely interesting and amazing information!!!


wrote …

Just getting into the zone, anyone have any suggestions for paleo? I know most people do some sort of zone/paleo combo (or maybe those two just go together naturally). Anyways, anybody have any resources on eating paleo, what's good what's not, etc.?


wrote …

I've been primarily eating a Zone favorable diet for a little over 2 months now. I do have a cheat meal or two per week and I did cheat a little more when I was on vacation at the beach with the family, but I did this more of an experiment to see how it effected my exercise and general well being. I am pretty strict about protions and frequency (every 4-6 hours) I'm a small guy, 132 lbs, 5'-6 ish and pretty lean to begin with, so fat loss and what not was not my motivating factor, exercise performance and general well being and energy were. I have always had a lot of energy, but wanted to see how I'd feel on the Zone. I like the Zone. I feel lighter and healthier.. I was eating prety healthy by most people's standards before, but now I'm just more dialed in.
The MAJOR questions I have are regarding the Zone diet and the fact that I'm a type 1 diabetic. I've always been active and athletic, and always been very slim. This is a genetic thing, not an obesity thing. I take insulin so I'm concerned about how I can expect my results with that. I am always aware of the carbohydrates that I take in, since I have to take insulin to accomodate for them into my body, otherwise I'll have elevated blood sugar levels and that's REALLY bad for your long term health. All my A1-C hemoglobin blood test results have ALWAYS been non-diabetic levles Just wondering if anyone knows if I can expect similarly good resultsm, in all ways, since I'm a diabetic and really I control my insulin levels, not the food.
I really appreciate any feedback. Feel free to email me at if you have more information regarding Zone and type 1 Diabetes, and Training performance. Thanks again.
-Anton Gross


wrote …

Is there any way to see the whole seminar that was recorded? I found the two clips only wetted my appetite for what Dr. Sears was talking about. It is one thing to read it in his books( I have, his first and second to last) but it is anther to hear, see and get the body language that is conveyed when someone speaks. Any luck CFHQ?

Jon Clarke


wrote …

Please post the rest of this lecture. It is awesome!!!!!


wrote …

This is what i keep in mind when loading up my plate,
1/3 lean protein (size of your fist)
2/3 vegs/fruit (try to include all the colors of the rainbow)
and then fat (wal-nuts, almonds,or olive oil)

I would recommend being strict about weighting and measuring early on, and get a good idea about your blocks sizes. Check out Robb Wolf's FAQ section. Also include a good fish oil.


wrote …

Great lecture and I hope to see rest of the lecture soon. But for those who can't for that time I found on YouTube a five part interview of Dr. Sears about toxic fat.

Here is the link to part one of the five part interview:


wrote …

Very helpful and informative. I wish I could've gone. Thanks for these videos and please post the rest!


wrote …

Simply superb. Like many others who have posted here and elsewhere, I'm finding it difficult to break the 30-year habits of consuming lots of carbs. However, these videos provide excellent motivation (and understanding) to help me persevere. Many thanks to Crossfit and to Dr Sears for sharing this insight.


wrote …

Please post the rest of this very informative lecture. He communicates the information very well.


wrote …

Great lecure - Please post the rest of this lecture


wrote …

Davo -

highly recommend reading CFJ 15 for paleo, and CFJ 21 for Zone. It's really straight forward.

It comes down to your goals. Coach Rippetoe advocates drinking milk - but he's all about strength training, which is fine, if that's your goal. If you want to lean out more, then cut back on dairy as part of cutting back blocks.

Also for Paleo, check out Loren Cordain's site, I subscribe to his weekly Paleo newsletter, shows up in my email every Friday. Lots and lots of good info there, even if you don't buy his books (which are great, too).

Good luck - it's a little work but huge rewards.


wrote …

Problem with posting the entire lecture is that it was part of a paid seminar i believe, so us getting the entire thing basically for free shafts the attendees. My take at least, or was it a free lecture?


wrote …

QUESTION: is it bad to be consuming omega-6? Dr. Spears mentions that "refined carbs + high levels of omega-6" is bad. Just wanted more clarification on this.

overall, very interesting. I hope that they post more of this talk in the future.


replied to comment from Nicholas Deep

Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. So consuming them is not inherently bad, we actually need them.

The issue is quantity and balance. Omega-6 FAs in the modern diet are so ubiquitous that you can get way more than is healthful without even paying attention to what you eat, while omega-3s require some real attention to get enough to maintain a healthy ratio.

The consequences of an overabundance of Omega-6 FA are exacerbated by a state of hyperinsilinemia brought on by too many refined carbohydrates in the diet. Hyperinsilinemia shifts the conversion of DGLA (a product of one of the reactions in the cascade of reactions converting omega-6 FAs to eicosanoids) towards arachidonic acid (precursor to pro-inflammatory eicosanoids) and away from PGE1 and TXA1(inflammatory-neutral eicosanoids made from omega-6).

So, the goals of the Zone are to lower inflammation by balancing the eicosanoid raw materials (EFAs) in the diet and limiting arachidonic acid production by keeping insulin levels relatively low.


Patrick Flannelly wrote …

In 1996 I picked up a copy of "The Zone," and turned right to a page that basically stated, "If you are having trouble sleeping, you might want to look at what you eat before you go to bed." As a shift worker, I was going to bed at 9am after eating a really "healthly" low-fat breakfast that generally consisted of Wheaties with skim milk, topped with a banana and granola. Like clockwork, I would wake up at noon STARVING, and could not go back to bed without eating a snack.

If I ever doubted there were forces at work greater than myself, then opening that book to that exact page cleared any doubt. I was instantly hooked and have been a Zone advocate since that day. I was educated on what was occuring in my body that was causing my restless sleep. As a bonus, I learned a whole lot more that changed the way I looked at food forever.

The fact of the matter is, when I saw that CrossFit endorsed "The Zone," I immediately knew I had found something. I CrossFit because of the Zone, not the other way around.

If you are new to the Zone diet, then invest a few months and really dial it in. My personal opinion is to read the original Zone book first, and then go from there. Once you have educated yourself, the rest becomes pretty easy.

I would loan anyone my book(s) if I had any left, but I keep loaning them to people who need them and I never get them back....


replied to comment from Davo Adams


I've done the Zone and Paleo and Zone is definitely more convenient. As for the Zone, go to Bed Bath and Beyond and buy yourself a digital scale. It is worth every penny. Weigh your food until you can recognize what a block looks like. I used to bar b que a bunch of chicken breasts on the weekend and eat them throughout the week to have lean protein on hand all the time. Ziplock steam bags are awesome for steaming veggies and cooking frozen chicken or turkey meatballs. First thing when I woke up, I would make a slice of toast with egg whites, avocado and salsa for a quick one block, then off to the gym. Dairy foods like string cheese and cottage cheese were staples for me on the Zone. I would package up cottage cheese with fresh fruit and nuts (2 blocker) pretty much every day. I also used Double Fiber bread since the high fiber content dropped the net carbs down enough so that I could have a full slice for one block. I made a turkey and avocado sandwich for lunch daily and got to the point where I could eyeball the quantity of meat instead of weighing and have it just about right on every time. Eventually the quantities of the foods you like will be easy for you to recognize and the diet plan gets really easy then. Most of us have a handful of foods we really like and just need to get used to what a block looks like and develop a routine. I carry pretty low body fat for a woman, but saw a significant drop when I went on a strict zone, even with increasing my fat intake. On Paleo, it has been tough to keep enough lean protein in the house and it is much less convenient with traveling or eating out. I love the Paleokits Josh Everett talked about but find them pretty expensive for a 2 block snack. ($4) In a perfect world, I would go with a combination of the two, but that would take some serious commitment. Either way, Zone works. I put my 68 year old mother on a strict zone diet with little to no exercise and she lost about 2 lbs a week consistently, lost a total of 55 pounds and has kept it off for over a year now. That was a truly amazing testimony for the Zone in my eyes.


wrote …

Great stuff. Thanks for posting and please post more! (I really wanted to attend this in person considering I only live a few miles away but I had a family commitment.)


wrote …

Wanted to attend this 'like you read about' - always wondered how Coach and Dr. Sears were aquainted and knew eventually CF and Sears would be more publicly aligned - awesome team. Paul


wrote …

Is there anyway to get the powerpoint he used? That would be awesome.


wrote …

Wow, that's probably the least informative 'scientific' lecture I've ever heard.
I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble here, but just to temper your enthusiasm, most of what Dr. Sears states in this vids are his claims and that only.

I know, I know, there's tons of empirical evidence within the CF community that says the Zone diet works - for performance and weight loss. I'm not saying otherwise. But, as far as his statements about inflammation being THE underlying cause of chronic illness, cancer, and Alzheimer's, this is shaky at best. Yes, there is plenty of research concerning the connection between inflammatory responses and theses disease pathways/mechanisms, but most at this point are merely correlates which is a long way, scientifically speaking, from being THE cause. Additionally, there are different types of inflammatory processes in the body, some of which that have been connected to theses diseases, but are not necessarily the type that Dr. Sears discusses.

Furthermore, there are also several lines of research that provide evidence to the contrary of Dr. Sears' research, including a handful of reviews that examine the Zone diet specifically. If interested, you can find them on PubMed at your local library.

As usual, I'm not trying to raise a ruckus, I'm simply trying to pull some even-minded thought back into the equation here. I'm sure I'll be called a dumbass and a nay-sayer just like every other time I post here, but I just wanted to be clear with everyone before that happens - I just want you to THINK about it. Just because someone speaks at a level beyond your current understanding doesn't make them right. Go educate yourself.


replied to comment from Thomas Nunan

I had much the same experience, I started CrossFitting in April 2007 and figured "that's good enough, I can eat what I want"

The carrots (unfavorable carb mind you) for me were lack of hunger for 4+ hours between meals + better performance both of which I got immediately as well as nearly immediately losing about 15 lbs of fat.

I can't count how many times I've heard "You've lost weight !" as the first words out of someone's mouth I haven't seen for awhile

However why my story parellels Mr. Nunan's is that in exactly one month eating Zone my triglycerides went from 121 to 79 and my HDL from 35 to 53. My LDL dropped dramatically also but I am unsure of the numbers.

I also explained the Zone Diet to my doctor and he essentially dismissed it saying "you just need to eat a balanced diet" I explained to him that's exactly what the Zone is.

He listened but was still skeptical, I doubt I swayed his opinon at all.
He just said "Well if it's working for you go ahead and keep doing it"

Note also - Greg Glassman told me personally today at the Brand X CrossFit 101
(paraphrased because I didn't record it)

"I bristle a bit when someone says "CrossFit AND the Zone Diet, the Zone prescrption is part of our program and Dr Sears is OK with us using it"

I believe the 40 / 30 / 30 ratio is mentioned in the "Foundations" article as well as "What is fitness ?"


wrote …

Hey Cameron,
I'm going to somewhat agree with you on this as Dr. Sears is very quick to attribute everything it seems to inflammation. While I believe controlling inflammation will do wonders for your health and longevity, there are a million other factors at work too such as oxidative stress, cortisol production, glycation, methylation, etc. that contribute to disease states. To claim one thing, inflammation, is the cause of 99% of disease states is dangerous at best. If we focused only on reducing inflammation, there are still many diseases that would manifest, such as cancer, which is not only a product of inflammation, but also of oxidative stress. Now if we attack it on multiple fronts by reducing inflammation, as well as DNA damage by reducing oxidative stress, and enhancing methylation of the cells, then we would have a much better chance of staving off cancer. One thing that really bothered me was when Dr. Sears claimed diabetes is caused by inflammation, which is ridiculous, because diabetes is caused by insulin resistancy. Maybe insulin resistancy contributes to inflammation but is completely possible to have silent inflammation without being diabetic. Inflammation does not cause diabetes. Having said all of that, I still believe the Zone is a sound approach to diet that helps reduce all disease states, especially when coupled with a paleo diet, I'm just not convinced that inflammation is the answer to everything Sears says it is.


wrote …

Just to throw this in.... Barry Sears stole this method for steve pericone!


wrote …

So, if one follows a lower carb approach,advocated by Robb Wolfe at times, would you be in the zone still? After watching the videos, it seems like you wouldn't have proper balance of the hormones insulin and glucagon? Seems that glucagon would be higher than insulin, which according to Sears, causes inflammation as well... Just wondering since I follow a lower carb approach with increased healthy fats.


Tim Nowaczyk wrote …

5 minutes in, and Dr. Sears is presenting correlations as causations. I don't think I'm gonna like this video.


replied to comment from Patrik Van Pée

what is the recommended fish oil dosage for crossfit athletes

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