Food Culture: Dieting - The 5:2 Diet

Skeptics of last weeks diet, The Atkins, will undoubtedly have a view on the 5:2 diet which has taken off since its flourish in the news in late 2014. Simply, the regime involves 5 days of eating pretty much whatever you like and 2 days of highly restricted calorie intake (600 for men and 500 for women). The concept of fasting as diet method became prominent in people’s minds when the BBC covered a Horizon show on the method called ‘Eat Fast and Live Longer’. After the program aired a number of books were published, most famously, ‘The Fast Diet’ by Dr Michael Moseley and people were heralding the diet as the next best thing, some even claiming it was a miraculous scientific discovery!

The science (don’t worry I will keep this short) isn’t too complicated - our bodies have a growth hormone known as IGF-1, which helps us grow when we’re children. However, as adults it appears to cause aging, while high levels are linked to cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. Fasting lowers your IGF-1 levels, which some scientists believe slows growth of new cells and prompts your body to repair its existing ones. It also encourages fat burning, so you lose weight.


Example Diet days on the 5:2 (How many calories in...?):

A hard bolied egg - 77 calories

One can of Coke IS 150 calories

A medium banana is 105 calories...


So it’s simple really apparently… eat as normal then starve yourself on a couple of eggs and bananas! Well, like any diet, if you do decide to take on the 5:2 should be balanced with regular exercise as well as cutting out any bad habits such as smoking and too much drinking. Drinking plenty of water, especially on your fasting days is also an important factor to stay hydrated on the 5:2.

Doctors and nutritionists are still unconvinced by long-term effects of the 5:2 diet. They’ve pointed out that there have been no extensive trials into the potential benefit or harm of intermittent fasting for humans. If you’re tempted to try it out, it’s sensible to talk to your doctor first to make sure doing so won’t put your health at risk.