A new diet book — one that promotes fasting two days a week by drastically cutting calories and then eating normally the other five days — is catching on with dieters, but it already has its British author unexpectedly on the defensive.
The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy and Live Longer With the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting (Atria Books, $24), by British physician Michael Mosley and writer Mimi Spencer, is No. 46 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books list. Mosley stars in an upcoming three-part PBS series. The first part, Eat, Fast and Live Longer With Michael Mosley, airs April 3.
The diet has a following in the United Kingdom, including some cardiovascular surgeons, TV jour..nalists, chefs and celebrities….
Mosley, 55, who works for BBC as a medical journalist, says that when he first read about the alleged benefits of intermittent fasting, he was skeptical, too. “Nothing in my medical training had prepared me for this,” he says. Although most of the world’s great religions advocate fasting for faith purposes and some for health purposes, it seemed drastic and difficult to him.
But then Mosley had some medical tests done and discovered he had some risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, and he was a bit too heavy. “My doctor recommended I go
on medication for high blood sugar and high cholesterol. She predicted that in 10 years I would be on eight different medications. I decided I wanted to find a different way.”
So he asked his boss at BBC if he could use himself as a “guinea pig” to explore the science behind life extension, which focuses on calorie restriction and fasting.
Based on his review of the research, he created what he calls the “5:2 diet.” Five days a week, he eats normally; two days a week, he eats 600 calories. For women, he recommends 500 calories on the fasting days. That would be about two poached eggs on a slice of whole-grain toast and a bowl of raspberries for breakfast, and roast salmon with green beans and cherry tomatoes for dinner….
Before he started intermittent fasting, Mosley, who is 5-foot-11, weighed 187 pounds and had a body mass index of 26, which put him into the overweight category. His waist was 36 inches; his neck, 17. His fasting blood glucose (a measure of diabetes risk) was too high, along with his cholesterol.
After two months on his program, he weighed 168 pounds, a loss of 19 pounds. He had a body mass index of 24, and his waist was 33 inches. His neck size was 16. His cholesterol and blood glucose and other factors fell to the normal range.
“I didn’t want to lose any more because my wife, who is a doctor, said I was looking gaunt. These days, I fast one day a week, and often skip lunch on the other days.”