Can the intermittent fasting diet really help you lose weight and lengthen your life at the same time?
Every year there is a plethora of new diets and eating fads set to entice the consumer into a new way of eating. A new fad on the block, which is increasing weekly in popularity, is the 5:2 intermittent fasting diet.
The brainchild of Dr Michael Mosley, the diet requires that over a seven day period you eat normally on five days but drastically reduce your calories to just 500 a day, 600 for men, during two days.
This intermittent fasting is said to not only help you lose weight but also improve brain activity and lengthen your life. There have been an explosion of books, websites and even fasting supplements since the broadcast on the BBC early 2013.
These are big claims to make and although there are already a lot of followers to this diet claiming life-changing benefits, it is difficult to prove long-term success as this particular diet is still fairly premature.
According to the NHS there is evidence of lab studies carried out for the fasting diet that have resulted in the reduction of the effects of Alzheimer’s in rats, however, a rat lives an average life span of 7 years so may not be the best comparison for a human.
Does the fasting diet actually work?
Fasting for health is certainly not a new thing, there are many circles of consumers who chose to indulge in intermittent fasting to benefit their digestive problems such as Crohns or Colitis, as it is said to improve the functionality of the colon and bowel when the body is allowed a rest from food.
In 1957, a study took place in a home for the elderly where 120 residents were divided into two groups. The first group was given a regular diet, with the second group eating a regular diet one day and then only consuming up to 900 calories on the consecutive day.
Over a period of three years, 13 of the residents died in the first group, with only 6 of the participants dying from the fasting group.
Although there is no actual proof that this study proves that fasting can lengthen your life span, and could certainly be a coincidental given the ages of the participants, it does demonstrate that this is not a passing trend but an idea that has been around for a long time.
Committing to the fasting diet will require a certain amount of dedication to stick to your meagre calories on your chosen designated fasting days. A devotee intermittent dieter friend of mine ensures her fasting days are during the week as she finds it is easier to ignore food while in the office.
She suggests that you must plan ahead which meal will have your largest calorie content. Her average fasting day consists of a breakfast of toast at 80 calories a slice, accompanied with a black coffee and a teaspoon of milk.
Lunch will be a cup of tomato soup at 200 calories. Dinner will be a handful of nuts, raisins and a piece of fruit. She copes with the lack of food by going to bed by 8.30pm on her fasting days.
The thought of knowing that you can return to normal calories the following day ensures you can cope with the low calorie days and is a good way to approach this diet.