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The 5:2 Diet – Eat, Fast and Live Longer!

Why is the 5:2 Diet so Important?

This site is all about the power of intermittent fasting using the 5:2 diet.  The starting point for most of us in the UK has been a TV documentary called Eat, Fast and Live Longer on the BBC looking at the health benefits of fasting or calorie restricted diets.  And, the point of this programme was not JUST weight loss, although for most of us it’s a very welcome result too.

The starting point for the programme was some research looking at how lowering your calorie intake and restricting the amount of protein you ate could help lower IGF-1 levels – a hormone that is one of the drivers keeping our bodies ‘fit’.    The presenter, Michael Mosley,  talked to individuals who followed an ongoing restricted calorie diet – and his own ‘fitness’ in terms of blood markers (IGF-1, glucose and cholesterol) was monitored against someone who had been following the regime for several years. And, was shocked at the beneficial results of a restricted calorie diet not just on weight and body fat, but on blood markers, indicators of serious diseases often associated with aging.

For most of us though, eating is an enjoyable experience and restricting your diet to less than 1000 calories a day is not something we want to do in the long term.  In order to be healthy on that level of calorie intake you really do have to monitor your food carefully and take additional supplements to make sure you don’t have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

So what are the realistic alternatives?

ADF, alternate day fasting has been promoted by a whole range of fitness enthusiasts, from body builders through to those seeking to delay the aging process.  And, it’s been researched periodically since 1943.

Some of the potential health benefits for intermittent fasting – 5:2 or ADF include

  1.  Protection against the worst effects alzheimer’s, parkinsons and other similar ailments.  This was in work carried out by the Institute of Aging in the USA, where a 5:2 diet has been proven to provide some level of protection
  2.  Significant improvements in several blood markers such as LDL cholesterol in as little as eight weeks from work carried out by Bhutani S, Klempel MC, Berger RA, Varady KA. Improvements in Coronary Heart Disease Risk Indicators by Alternate-Day Fasting Involve Adipose Tissue Modulations. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Mar 1
  3. Weightloss (which in itself can help with health problems).  It seems obvious that reducing overall calorie levels by around 15% will result in weightloss, but what is significant is that for many people intermittent (semi) fasting is preferable to ongoing diet regimes.

scallops with lime and chilli butter

One set of research on rats concluded that the optimal frequency of fasting was one day in three.  And that this prolonged the lifespan of the rats by an average of 20%.

Well, at the risk of sounding glib, one day in three (effectively 5:2) of fasting to prolong my life by 20% and help me lose the weight I’ve gained over the last few years sounds fine to me.

The current recommendation too, isn’t about total, water only fast, but about restricting calories to 500 a day for women and 600 a day for men (e.g. about a quarter of the recommended daily allowance).  And, if you pick your meals carefully that’s really not too hard to achieve.

On this site I am going to introduce you to the concept of 5:2 menu planning.  My aim is to show you that it is possible to follow the 5:2 diet and eat tasty, appealing meals EVEN on your fast days.  Because I believe this should be a lifestyle choice for those of us who gain weight easily, and as such it will only work if it is easy to follow.  I’ve been following this diet for a few weeks now, so I am collecting a host of recipes that work for the 5:2 diet because they are very low calorie

The researcher on the TV programme lost nearly a stone in weight over a five week period of following the 5:2 diet.  I’m now into week two of the same programme and have lost just a kilo so far (2.2lbs).  I am not eating any differently on my non-fasting days – and I am optimistic that this programme could provide me with the solution I have been looking for.

I am a reasonably fit woman in her early fifties, with slow acting thyroid and mild asthma (which is agravated if I gain weight).  I have no other health problems.  I weigh 65kg or 10.23 stone and my target weight is 60kg.  I will be publishing menu plans, recipe ideas results of my own efforts to follow the 5:2 diet plan and more on how to follow the 5: diet plan on this site.




The 5-2 Diet and Health

5:2 Diet and Health

One of the key things to stress is that the 5:2 Diet is not just about weight loss.  The TV presenter, Michael Mosley, who was involved in the original investigation was looking at ways to improve his life expectancy.  And the 5:2 diet health improvements he experienced suprised everyone including himself.

Now, we’ve all been told for years that obesity is a significant factor in life expectancy.  But, for many people life without ‘feast days’ becomes something that is not worth living.  I’m not talking about gross overeating, but about being able to eat chocolate occasionally and drink wine in moderation, or go out for a pizza or a curry at the weekend.  With the 5:2 diet health improvements are a result of GOOD behaviour on the fasting days and a sensible, moderate diet on the other days.

My personal finding from having tried the 5:2 diet for a couple of weeks is that I do feel healthier, even though this is really very soon.  Obviously some of that is due to weight loss (3 or 4 pounds in my case), but I suspect the 5:2 diet impacts my health in other ways too, although I don’t have access to the same monitoring that Michael Mosley used throughout his trial to monitor how the 5:2 diet improved his health.  Some of the problems I have had with water retention have gone and I am sleeping a lot better.  And, my asthma doesn’t seem so bad (although that is something that could be due to the appearance of some summer weather at last).

Today, the BBC has published results of a ten year trial looking at links between obesity and cognitive decline.  The work, tracked the health of more than 6,000 people in the UK over a ten year period.  Participants between the age of 35 and 55 were monitored for memory and other cognitive skills three times over a ten year period.  There was a much fast decline in the test scores of those who were obese and had unhealthy metabolic changes.

The 5:2 diet and other fasting or restricted calorie diets, not only helps with weight loss but appears to improve blood markers (e.g. improving IGF-1 hormone levels, cholesterol and glucose levels).  It appears the health improvement with diets like the 5:2 diet come from the body switching from ‘growth mode’ to ‘repair mode’ so that a number of repair genes are ‘switched on’ while you follow the 5:2 diet. Health improvements are not JUST a function of weight loss.

I suspect there are other underlying reasons why the 5:2 diet may result in significant improvements in health.  For a start, keeping to a 500 or 600 calorie diet on your 5:2 diet fast days can be done in a few ways.  If you like them, then there are propriatry low calorie shakes and soups you can buy.  But, I am deeply suspicious of things that come in little dried up sachets to be reconstituted and I have discovered that a much more satisfactory way of following the 5:2 diet on fast days is to make healthy, very low calorie meals.  Now, by default these are almost always high in non starchy vegetables and low in fat.  What protein I do eat is also almost always low fat (fish, chicken, reduced fat cheese etc).  I am stopping myself from feeling hungry by eating a much higher proportion of vegetables and fruit than normal.  And, I don’t have any ‘spare’ calories for a glass of wine…so I am not drinking.  If you looked at my 5:2 diet fast days, you would see all the trappings of a healthy diet.

So, fingers crossed it works.  I’d like to lose a bit of weight and live a bit longer.  Especially if I can do that keeping my health and cognitive skills.  And the 5:2 diet appears to improve my chances of doing all of that.




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