The FastDiet

From USAToday:

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.”

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  • Jim

    Wonder what he does in terms of exercise. Exercise increases appetite.

  • Isn’t this just a reiteration of the general truth that people should eat less overall?

  • Georges Boujakly

    I attest to similar results. Some fast days are 24 hours without caloric intake for me (this is for reasons that correspond to Scot’s book on fasting: responding to sacred tragic moments such as world hunger, nations raging against God, etc). No ill effects or bad side effects for a few years of practice this way of caloric restriction. Exercise is not hindered just less robust. The key is not to try to make up for “lost calories” on the days of eating.

  • The Didache speaks of fasting twice a week as well, Wednesdays and Fridays, in contrast to Jewish fasting on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s an ancient practice of the church that I benefit from in more than physical health.
    God is love

  • I have read elsewhere that alternating days of unrestricted eating with days one eats lightly will usually improve metabolism, which normally slows with steady caloric restriction. As described, it isn’t really a fast though. You can do something similar with simply reducing portion sizes on some days.

  • Weight loss is and always will be determined by a caloric deficit. It’s all about expending more energy than you take in. IF (intermittent fasting) can be a strategy that will work for some people to help achieve that caloric deficit, but it’s not the explicit reason for weight loss. For some, severely restricting their caloric intake leads to binge eating, which can destroy any progress they have made with IF. For others, it may help. It all depends on the individual.

  • The TV programme he made about this is well worth viewing if you can get hold of it. It is a BBC ‘Horizon’ science programme, I don’t know if it’s available on the US networks or as a DVD, but it is good.

    Some of the main points are made on a BBC web page –

    They include basic details about IGF-1 and how it affect metabolism and ageing.

  • Possibly interesting relevant point: Three of the Irish names for the days of the week are named after fasting.

    Wednesday – Dé Céadaoin – The day of the first fast.
    Thursday – Déardaoin, which is a contraction of Dé idir an dá aoine – The day between the two fasts.
    Friday – Dé hAoine – The day of the fast (presumably meaning THE fast).

    I suspect the old Irish reasons for fasting had very little to do with weight-loss. For Irish people, it is almost impossible to speak our native language without encountering the faith that has so shaped our country and culture.