The 5:2 Fasting Diet: Revolutionary Approach Or Dangerous Fad?

Sold as the weight loss diet for people who love food (so us then, right?), the 5:2 diet allows you to eat normally for five days with the two other days being restricted to 500 calories. But is this too good to be true? Are there any hidden risks? We've asked the experts.

We’ve been working with dieticians, nutritionists and experts to really get to the bottom of the 5:2 diet. Here we investigate the pros and cons of this new weight loss craze.

Pros

1. Your cognitive function may be improved which can help to prevent conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

2. Felicity Cloake, Guardian columnist and award-winning food writer says: ‘The 5:2 diet is the only one I’ve ever tried which feels doable long-term – the idea of depriving myself of anything seven days a week is so depressing I inevitably give up, but nothing seems so terrible about fasting for a single day at a time. After all, I can always have that cake tomorrow!’

3. Fasting for short periods may help to give your digestive system a rest.

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4. Angela Dowden, author of The 5:2 Diet Cookbook, says: ‘Fasting is a routine you can sustain and it’s adaptable too – later on you can do just one day a week to keep weight off. Also it really does seem to help re-educate your eating habits, which is key to sustained weight loss.’

5. Initial studies suggest intermittent fasting may have the ability to increase lifespan.

6. Dr Sarah Schenker, author of The Fast Diet Recipe Book, says: ‘Although you will find the fasting days challenging to begin with, you quickly get used to dealing with hunger pangs and some people feel empowered by fasting, others talk of a sense of freedom or relief by not having the dilemma of choosing what to eat.’

7. It may reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

5:2 DIET PLAN: OUR FAVOURITE RECIPES

8. Kate Harrison, author of The Ultimate 5:2 Diet Recipe Book, says: ‘The 5:2 is the first diet I’ve ever wanted to stick with for life – it’s incredibly simple and flexible. Plus, it’ll save you money – and, of course, you can still enjoy your favourite dishes, so 5:2 means never having to feel guilty about food again.’

9. Fasting is believed to reduce the levels of IGF-1 in the blood (a growth hormone which seems to lead to accelerated ageing and can cause cell divisions like those found in cancer).

Cons

1. After fasting, you may find yourself overeating.

2. Emma Woolf, Times columnist, as seen on Channel 4’s Supersize Vs Superskinny, says: ‘What’s wrong with 5:2? What’s right with it, more like. It’s unbalanced and unhealthy, alternating fasting with feasting. It’s the ultimate all-or-nothing cycle of hungry days and high-calorie days. Extreme dieting triggers over-eating, and causes mood swings. Like every other miracle diet it’s unsustainable over the long-term.’

3. Side effects may include difficulty sleeping, bad breath, dehydration and anxiety.

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4. Fiona Nave, registered paediatric dietitian/nutritionist, says: ‘It’s not a sustainable diet – it’s a diet which will see weight rebound. There are short-term health risks to consider. People could find they get dizzy, feel sick and could even pass out. And if someone was diabetic, for example, it could be extremely dangerous.’

5. Restricting food can lead to nutrient deficiencies if your body doesn’t get all the essential minerals and nutrients it needs.

6. Alan Aragon, Men’s Health advisory board member, says: ‘Researchers have yet to do a prospective randomised controlled trial, where they assign some people to fast and others to eat the same amount of food in a more typical pattern, then follow them both see what happens.’

7. This diet is not suitable for pregnant women, Type 1 diabetics, children or people recovering from surgery.

8. Fasting can leave you with less energy, which can affect your ability to function with daily tasks.

9. There is concern that the 5:2 diet can encourage eating disorders among vulnerable people.

5:2 DIET RECIPES: WHAT CAN YOU EAT ON FASTING DAYS?

What do you think about the 5:2 diet? Are you for or against this method of weight loss? Have you tried the diet? Did it work for you? We’d love to know your thoughts, so let us know in the comment box below.


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