The 5.2 Diet
The 5.2 diet is a diet that utilizes “intermittent fasting” to lose weight. It involves normal eating for 5 days and extreme calorie cutting for 2 days a week. This kind of sounds like a weird eating disorder but I’ll give it a chance, it does seem appealing to be able to eat normally for a week and cut only diet in the weekend!
On the calorie cutting days men are aloud to eat 600 calories and woman are allowed 500. A normal healthy male usually eats around 2500 calories per day and a healthy woman eats around 2000 so on the fasting days you are eating a 5th of your normal intake. To me this sounds seriously impossible but I have the will power of a monkey in a cage made of bananas. I did have a look at some of the menus for these fasting days and it’s not as bad as it seems. In one day you can have; a breakfast of ½ a cup of porridge oats made with water but topped with milk with raisins, cinnamon and 1tsp of honey (224cals), a bowl of spicy tomato and lentil soup for lunch (123cals) and for dinner a fig, beetroot and feta salad (204cals). Recipes can be found at http://www.tinnedtomatoes.com/2012/08/52-diet-menu-options.html#.UWJ4cpj8utV
So the diet is doable to my standards but does it work and how? The 5.2 diet came to light when a BBC team made a documentary following Michael Mosley during his trial of the diet. Over the 9 weeks he dieted, Mosley lost around 10kg and his general health improved. Before the experimental dieting he had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic which means he had high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol and visceral fat in his gut likely to lead to diabetes. After 9 weeks of 5.2 dieting he had decreased his blood sugar levels by 50% and improved his cholesterol and body fat levels. According to him “the body goes into repair and recovery mode when it does not have to work on storing the food being consumed”. The 5.2 diet is not only meant to make you lose weight but also increase your life span and prevent disease.
I was skeptical about Mosley’s claims so I did some research and found some studies that showed fasting once or twice a week lowers insulin-like-growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a biochemical molecule in the body that helps to mobilize glucose (that comes from sugar and carbohydrates) into the blood stream. Lower levels of IGF-1 have been proven to encourage fat burning as there is less glucose in the blood stream for the body to use for energy making it burn stored fat to run the body. The lower levels of IGF-1 can also protect the brain against Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease. Tests performed on mice show that high levels of IGF-1 cause aging therefore lower levels will lead to a longer life, however, mice have a very different lifespan than humans so there is no telling if the same applies.
While little research has been done on the 5.2 diet and much from a single source it seems the 5.2 diet may not be as crazy as it seems. It will become clearer whether the 5.2 diet is really as good for you as it seems once more research is done on the effects so I would hold out till then to try it.