The 5:2 Diet

The latest rage to come to the U.S. from England is the 5:2 Diet. The book “The Fast Diet” promises great things: rapid weight loss, reduced insulin resistance and decreased Alzheimer’s. Plus, you eat whatever you want for most of every week. Wow, is this the greatest diet ever?

Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer wrote their book after producing a documentary for the BBC called “Eat, Fast and Live Longer.”  Like other intermittent fasting approaches, the 5:2 Diet proposes “eat what you want” for five days out of every week. The catch? For two days each week you only eat a quarter of your normal diet. For men that’s about 600 calories and for women that comes out to about 500 calories. The two fasting days can’t be sequential (thank goodness!) and you can move them around week to week.

Author Mosley says that he has lost 20 pounds on his diet. Other celebrities claim similar successes. They credit a decrease in the hormone IGF-1 for most of the result, which they say increases fat burning and reduces Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

This IGF-1 hormone received a lot of attention when a village in Ecuador was discovered to have essentially no cancer or diabetes and residents enjoyed unusually long lives. Research on these luck people found that they had extremely low levels of this IGF-1 hormone. Oh, yeah, one down side was that most of the villagers were less than 4 feet tall, again probably due to this IGF-1 hormone. That’s a trade-off, if there ever was one.

There are some issues with this diet. Eating on 500 or 600 calories in a day is not healthy. You should expect to feel tired and cranky on your fasting days. Some experts worry that this “on again, off again” fasting can develop into a preoccupation with food, leading to eating disorders. Mosley and Spencer don’t share that concern.

Is this a diet for the ages? This could be a quick-hit diet, if you really, really, really need to drop some weight fast for some event. It is hard to see this as a lifelong behavior, though. For that, you should choose a lifestyle diet with at least 1,200 calories every day that fits your tastes and habits. They are out there and don’t make you starve yourself.

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