If you've ever considered following a weight loss diet make sure you have all the facts first. Our health editor and nutritional therapist take a look at the 5:2 diet...
What is the 5:2 diet?
Eat what you want five days a week, send your body to starvation mode for two. The part-time diet that still allows you to eat chocolate cake has hit the headlines and taken off in a big way.
The practice of fasting has been around for years, with tests carried out to uncover the potential effects as early as the 1940s. However, the dawn of 2013 ushered in a new spin on a practice that had more commonly been associated with religious rituals or even political protests. The intermittent fast, a weight loss wonder (with some other potential but as yet unproven health benefits) was snapped up by the UK dieting community who, feeling the bulge after Christmas 2012, were told they could eat what they wanted for the majority of the week and still lose weight.
The fasting for weight loss phenomenon was actually set in motion in August 2012, when the BBC broadcast a Horizon episode called 'Eat Fast and Live Longer'. Doctor and journalist Michael Mosley presented the diet du jour as ''genuinely revolutionary'' and as a result, published ‘the fast diet’ book in January 2013.
A month after Mosley’s book was published, former BBC journalist, Kate Harrison released her version titled ‘The 5:2 diet book’ The recommendations in both books vary slightly, though the general principles of the diet remain the same.
The simplicity of the diet and the fact you can eat pretty much what you like five days a week, are key to its popularity. Dieters are recommended to consume a ‘normal’ number of calories five days a week and then, for two, non-consecutive days, eat just 25% of their usual calorie total - 500 calories for women and 600 for men.
There are no restrictions on the types of food you can eat and it is suggested that women can expect to lose about a 1lb a week on the diet with men losing about the same if not a little more.
Nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens says:
All the headlines for the 5:2 diet, and similar intermittent-fasting regimes, claim that calorie restriction may be linked with:
- Living longer
- Reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer
- Improving cholesterol levels and blood-sugar control, and be anti-ageing thanks to its possible effect on lowering levels of the hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor -1 (IGF-1)
However, these benefits have only been seen in animal studies. Current medical opinion is that the benefits of fasting are unproven and that, until there are more human studies, it’s best to eat around 2,000 calories a day.
Pregnant and breast-feeding women, as well as diabetics on medication, should seek medical advice before embarking on such a diet. Furthermore, this sort of diet can be unsafe for teenagers and children, who are likely to miss out on crucial nutrients needed for growth and may be at risk of developing unhealthy eating habits. The diet is tough. On fasting days you may feel low in energy, have poor concentration and could suffer headaches and dizziness. If you do choose to follow the diet, make sure that your non-fast days are packed with nutritious options, including fruit, veg, wholegrains and lean protein such as chicken, fish, turkey and dairy foods.
When you’re following a low-calorie diet, it’s important to make every calorie work – that means choosing nutritionally rich foods.
Please note, if you are considering attempting any form of diet please consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to health.
Weight loss and good health can be achieved by following a healthy, balanced diet. Our nutritionist approved plan helps you find your perfect portion size, guideline daily amounts and nutritionally balanced breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks:
A balanced diet for women
A balanced diet for men
A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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