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Dr. Barry Sears
Dr. Barry Sears
President of Zone Labs
Related Links

A Silent Killer in Our Midst, Part 1

What Is Really to Blame for Our Bad Health?

"Silent" Factors That Could Be Making You Sick

Silent Killer: The Link between Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

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A Silent Killer in Our Midst, Part 2

Dr. Barry Sears
Zone Living – In part 1 of this article, Dr. Barry Sears explained what silent inflammation is and how it affects our health. This week, he discusses the role our genes play in this and what we can do to prevent illness.

What’s behind this growing epidemic of silent inflammation? Blame it on your genes. Science tends to favor those biological characteristics in a particular species that make them better equipped to pass their genes on to the next generation.

These are the genes that give the next generation an unfair advantage over others. Over the last 150,000 years, science has been working hard to favor the lucky few of our ancestors who had a higher chance for survival after birth, a survival long enough to be able to procreate. In those days, lack of food was a real problem, not to mention the constant hazard of alien bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.

Nature dealt with these hurdles in a number of ways. It favored those individuals who were more efficient at storing fat, which would enable them to survive during lean times. Body fat is vital for survival. It’s compact, high energy, and travels with you wherever you go.

Insulin is the hormone that allows us to easily store away fat for a rainy day. Thus, our early ancestors needed to develop the genetic propensity for producing large amounts of insulin whenever they ate excess calories during the times of feasting. Our genes evolved to increase insulin in two ways: eating too many carbohydrates or eating too many calories.

If the genes that increased our chances for survival also increase the likelihood of silent inflammation, then how did we get as far as we have? The answer lies with diet and lifestyle. For much of our time on earth, humans followed an anti-inflammatory diet that has worked in concert with our pro-inflammatory genes. Ten thousand years ago this was a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and long-chain omega-3 fats (coming primarily from fish) while simultaneously poor in omega-6 fats. This Paleolithic diet had virtually no grains or starches. It was the diet of hunters and gatherers and acted as a way to manage our increased genetic propensity to generate inflammation and excess insulin. As a result, silent inflammation was kept under control.

With the advent of agriculture, things started to change, but it has only been in the last two generations that our diet has gotten completely out of harmony with our genes. Of course, we can’t go back to the hunter/gatherer caveman days. But we can alter our current eating habits to better reflect the anti-inflammatory actions of the Paleolithic diet. This diet was able to keep the immune system at full alert without causing chronic silent inflammation. It’s the diet we should all be following now if we truly want to keep silent inflammation under control and reach the Zone of wellness.

We are constantly feasting on unlimited amounts of inexpensive food that is rich in carbohydrates. But our DNA still lives in the Stone Age, even if we don’t. Our genes haven’t had time to adapt to the doughnut generation. So if we eat too much on a regular basis, our cells pump out more and more insulin. As a result, we sock away more and more fat, and voila! We now have an obesity epidemic on our hands and a corresponding epidemic of silent inflammation. The very genes that saved us thousands of years ago are now our biggest liability.

The same is true of our ability to generate a strong inflammatory response. This was the only way to survive microbial or parasitic invasions. As recently as seventy years ago, we had very few weapons against infectious diseases except a strong inflammatory response to kill such organisms. All we could do was hope and pray that our immune system would protect us against these ravages.

Those of us with over-active immune systems had a better chance of survival than those with weaker immune defenses. Thus, we’ve inherited a genetic predisposition for an intense inflammatory response from our ancestors who were the only ones to survive these constant microbial attacks. Today we are faced with far fewer infectious disease threats and we have a whole arsenal of drugs to take against microbial infections.

Unfortunately, we no longer need our genetic propensity for mounting an excessive inflammatory response. We are stuck with this propensity since our genes haven’t had time to evolve. This sets the stage for increased silent inflammation, which gets activated by our diet and lifestyle. Our dramatic increased intake of vegetable oils (rich in the building blocks for pro-inflammatory eicosanoids) and our decreased consumption of fish oil (rich in the building blocks for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids) is one dietary habit that has activated this inflammation.

Controlling Your Genes

While it’s true that you can’t replace your genes, you can change their expression by altering your diet and lifestyle. Reaching the Anti-Inflammation Zone will alter the functioning of these genes and reverse the course of silent inflammation throughout your lifetime.

As long as our diet can counter-balance our increased insulin and inflammation responses honed by evolution, then life is good. It’s only when things get out of balance that chronic silent inflammation begins to emerge. The modern-day version of this Paleolithic diet is the Zone Diet that I have been writing about for the past ten years. This is the key to returning to a state of wellness and keeping yourself there for a lifetime. Silent inflammation is no longer elevated, as you are in new physiological state in which your inflammatory genes are balanced by an anti-inflammatory diet to keep silent inflammation under control. This is the molecular definition of wellness.

Reaching the Zone also incorporates a host of new strategies against silent inflammation in addition to the Zone Diet. Certain anti-inflammation foods like extra-virgin olive oil, wine, sesame oil, turmeric, and ginger, are featured prominently to fight silent inflammation. A comprehensive exercise plan is needed to help keep insulin levels in check. Cortisol reduction strategies such as meditation will boost these hormonal benefits even further.

Think of these lifestyle changes as if they are “drugs” that you have to take on a daily basis to control silent inflammation. The power of the Anti-Inflammation Zone lies in keeping the hormones you can control (eicosanoids, insulin, and cortisol) in their appropriate zones (not too high and not too low) so that you can live a longer and healthier life—in essence, maintaining a state of wellness. Or you can choose to do nothing--but then you’ll have to face the ravages of aging, a consequence of increasing levels of silent inflammation. The choice is in your hands.

Excerpted from The Anti-Inflammation Zone - Reversing The Silent Epidemic That's Destroying Our Health. Copyright 2005 by Barry Sears, Ph.D. Used by permission.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. As with any natural product, individual results will vary.

For more information about Dr. Barry Sears, his incredible fish oil supplements, or the popular Zone Diet, please visit

If you purchase any Zone Labs, Inc. products, part of the proceeds support CBN ministries.

Dr. Barry Sears is a leader in the field of dietary control of hormonal response. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his efforts over the past 25 years to the study of lipids and their inflammatory role in the development of chronic disease. He holds 13 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

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