ZERO SUGAR DIET is the latest book by David Zinczenko, with assistance by Stephen Perrine. Zinczenko is not a medical researcher or clinician; he is a professional writer and editor. He is the author of over twenty books on diet and health, including the EAT THIS, NOT THAT series, the ABS DIET series, and the ZERO BELLY series. He has been a high ranking editor of three magazines about diet and health. Both for his job and for his personal use, he "obsessively reads" the latest research on this subject.
ZERO SUGAR DIET is written like a magazine article, full of anecdotes, factoids, helpful hints, "studies say" declarations, recipes, lists, and bullet points. Many diet books are like this. It is not anything like the books of Gary Taubes, WHY WE GET FAT and THE CASE AGAINST SUGAR, which I strongly recommend. Taubes writes like a scientist and a lawyer, clearly and fluently making an argument and explaining the science and history of the issue. Zinczenko is a salesman for a proposed diet.
On page 11 he writes: "In 2015, researchers at the University of Massachusetts compared two sets of dieters. One set had spent the previous year doing pretty much everything that I did: cut calories, reduce saturated fat, ate lots of fruit and vegetables, took the skin off their chicken, ate low-fat dairy items, cut sodium, ate more fish, reduced trans fats, cut back on sugar, and exercised a minimum of 150 minutes a week. The other group did none of these things. All they did was eat more fiber, at least 30 grams a day.
Yet after a year, both groups showed nearly identical reductions in weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and inflammation.
My first reaction? I was mad. Car-flipping mad."
So, in this book he is proposing a diet very low in added sugars and with lots of fiber. His diet has two phases. Phase One is two weeks, Phase Two is thereafter.
He makes the distinction between natural sugar, that occurs naturally in the food, and added sugar, which is in many, many foods you will find in the supermarket and in restaurants. He proposes that for two weeks, you avoid all added sugar entirely. Each meal should include (1) a zero-sugar carbohydrate: vegetables (fresh or frozen), whole fruit (fresh or frozen), beans/legumes, unsweetened whole grains and cereals (brown rice, quinoa, oats), or nuts and seeds... (2) a "power protein", such as eggs, fish, plain Greek yoghurt, or lean meat (turkey, chicken, lean beef, roast pork) ... and a zero-added-sugar beverage (water, tea, milk, black coffee, or wine in moderation).
This two-week phase will probably drop your weight by ten pounds or so, but more importantly, it will end your cravings for sugar, show you that with enough fiber, at the end of the meal you do not crave dessert.
Phase two, you can resume buying packaged and processed food, with the proviso that it should contain more grams of fiber than grams of sugar. He has pages of lists, of commercial breads, crackers, soups, snacks, that actually meet this requirement. Most restaurant chains will have SOMETHING on their menu that will pass. You will probably continue to lose weight, but more slowly.
After the first two weeks, he also allows (at most) two "cheat meals" per week, when you can eat whatever.
My own comments: The very-low-sugar, high-fiber diet is interesting, because it offers an alternate explanation for why some other diets work. For example, there is a book called THE CHINA STUDY, which reports on a statistical, epidemiological study of many local populations in China, each with a somewhat different pattern of eating, which found that the less meat that a population ate, the more healthy they were. Vegans point to this study to argue for a totally plant-based diet. I note that the more plants you eat, the more fiber you will get. Meat consumption in China is strongly correlated with household income, and I will bet that household income is ALSO strongly correlated with SUGAR consumption. So the fact that the vegan diet WORKS, to reduce obesity and improve health, may not necessarily finger meat as unhealthy. Similarly for the Paleo diet. The basic idea of Paleo is that over LONG periods of time, by natural selection our species adapts to the foods we have been eating, so we may be better adapted to ancient foods and less well-adapted to more recent foods. (Especially foods invented in the last two hundred years, but to some degree even foods that were introduced with the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago.) From my personal experience I can say that the Paleo diet also WORKS. But it is ALSO a very-low-sugar, substantial-fiber diet, so perhaps it is not necessary to quit eating grains, beans, and dairy.