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Eat, Fast, Live Longer. The 5:2 Diet.

Updated on October 12, 2020

“Eat, Fast, Live Longer”

The Fast Diet, an intermittent fasting plan.

I was out with friends recently, and as can often happen when women get together, the topic of the latest diets came up. Two of the women confessed they had started the 5:2 Diet, or the Fast Diet, and were both 3 weeks in. One had lost 3 lbs, and one 5 lbs. Sounded interesting.

Several days later, I happened to catch a one hour documentary on TV from BBC Horizon called “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” featuring reporter Michael Mosley. His quest was to find ways to lose weight and to try to live longer all without drastically changing his lifestyle. No pills, no money, just with food. Or lack there of!

The program starts off as he goes to a marathon race in London, where he meets a 101 year old man, on no medication, never needed surgery, and only took up running when he was into his 80’s. He claims his perfect health is only due to one thing. His diet. His method? He reports to eating smaller portions, roughly half an adult portion, for every meal. He basically lives on children's portions. 7 hour and 49 minutes later he crossed the finish line.

Traditionally we think food=longevity.

How and when we eat is directly related to our health. Recently a new theory has emerged. Experimentation in animals shows that severely restricting food allows rats to live much, much longer, when compared to well fed rats.

This would mean: calorie restriction=longevity.

The only example of this in humans was observed during the Drought and Great Depression of the 1930s. People were underfed. Severely. Yet life expectancy increases by a remarkable 6 years during this period.

Washington University is researching a group of people who have been severely calorie restricting for a 10 year period. The doctor following them claims they almost present like a different species.

Mosley had to see this for himself. He visited a man, Joe, roughly his own height, and age(early 50's), who has followed a 1090 calorie diet for 10 years. Mosley confesses to averaging about 2300 calories daily for the same period. They both undergo medical tests to compare.

Mosley's results are first. Weight (180lbs vs 134lbs), balance on one foot (6.59 second vs 45 seconds), body fat (28% vs 11.5%). Mosley's abdominal fat comes in at a whopping 30%, and in his words, he never considered himself very overweight. This abdominal fat puts him at high risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes. "Joe could not have heart disease with results like these", the doctor reports. "Calorie restriction to this level could cure Mosley of the high risk of developing these serious diseases in as little as one year", the Dr claims.

Mosley knows he could never stick to a severely calorie reduced diet.

Low IGF1 Reduces the Risk of 7 Cancers

His research then leads him to Los Angeles, where scientists are doing research on mice and their Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 ( IGF1). The lower the IGF1, the longer one lives. About 40% longer.

A subset of the population in Equador has been found to have naturally very low levels of IGF1. These people are very small in stature, but they do not get diabetes or cancer, despite poor lifestyle choices- smoking, drinking, being overweight, eating a generally poor diet. Scientists believe the DNA in these people can repair itself quicker than average population, which allows the body to heal itself. Low IGF1 is definitely a good thing.

How does one reduce IGF1, you ask? Quite simply, fasting. Within 24 hrs of fasting IGF1 significantly reduces. Mosley's IGF1 reading starts at 28. This puts him at a high risk for 7 cancers including prostate (which his father died of). The Dr.suggests a 4 day fasting regime to attempt to lower his IGF1. Water, black tea, one 50 calorie cup soup per day is the only food permitted.

Mosley describes this fast as extremely difficult to stick to, and in fact the Doctor assisting him with this part of the program reports this should be done under medical supervision. The first day was tough. He sat with film crew as they ate dinner.

Testing for the liver reading of IGF1 halved after the 4 day fast. Mosley was encouraged, but knew he could not repeat the 4 day fast. It was torture, and no way to live his life. Blood Glucose levels dropped from 110 to 80, reducing his diabetes risk.

The Doctor confirms, that unless he switches to a lower protein, plant based diet, the results would not last. Not to mention, he would need to do the 4 day fast every other month.

Mosley decided he could not live that way, despite the drastic reduce of risk of many diseases.

Fasting Stresses Brain Matter, like Exercise Stresses Muscles.

Mosley's final stop in the U.S. was Baltimore, at the National Institute of Aging, to learn about the affects of aging on brain. He meets a researcher there who feels fasting may delay the onset of aging brain function, or Alzheimer's. Mice fed the typical American fatty diet with glucose, developed Alzheimer roughly in their 50’s(human equivalent years), but the intermittent fasting mice developed it in their 80’s. When fructose was exaggerated, they developed it in their 30’s.

Brains of fasting mice had new neurons growing- new nerve cells, when they were hungry. Fasting stresses brain matter, like exercise stresses muscles. Alternate day fasting has better affect on brain function, then the same number of calories spread out equally every day. This means it is not the calories alone that matter, but the stress of the fast. The doctor points out this theory has not yet been tested in humans.

Radio Interview with Michael Mosley

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)

His quest continued to see if there is a less challenging way to change these numbers without radically changing his lifestyle.

Next he traveled to Chicago to meet Dr.Krista Varady who is doing research on the Alternate Day Diet, which involves fasting one day, followed by a regular "feed" day. Women would eat 400-500 calories/day and men 500-600 calories/day for fasting days. One meal around lunchtime.

Feed day, they could eat whatever they wanted. Trial suggests they lost more weight, decreased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and decreased blood pressure, compared to controls. Alternate Day Fasting (ADF), sounded appealing. Mosley decides to give it a try.

Mosley questions the feed days. Recent studies compared one group eating high fat choices, and one low fat on feed day. They both consumed roughly the same number of calories on the feed day, and no difference was found between their results. This then allows people to choose any foods they like on feed day, even fast food. Mosley wonders if this may encourage bingeing on feed days, but Varadya's research shows people rarely gorged on feed day. In fact, once the study was underway, she found people only ate about 110% of what was expected, not 180% or more.

Mosley was impressed at the amount of food he could consume on a fast day if he chose extremely low calorie vegetables or broth based soup. Much more satisfying than the 50 calories on the 4 day fast. Research show that consuming 25% of the regular feed day is enough of a restriction to be considered a fast. That is why 500 calories is acceptable for females, and the aim of feed day would be 2000. It is not necessary to count the feed day calories though.

Again, Mosley wasn't sure this was a lifestyle he could keep up.

After all of this research, and experimenting with fasting, and especially seeing the blood work after the 4 day fast, Michael Mosley decides he must find a way to make fasting part of his life, for at least a trial, to see if his health can be improved. After much contemplation, Mosley decided to try the 5-2 diet. This is what he feels he can live with.

The rules for the 5 2 Diet:

Eat whatever you like for 5 days per week.

Eat 500 calories for women, or 600 calories for men on the other 2 non consecutive days.

It doesn't matter when you eat your calories on the fast day. Mosley prefers a bigger breakfast, usually 2 eggs and a piece of ham. He then drinks plenty of water, black tea, black coffee all day long, then finishes the day with a massive amount of vegetables, and a small piece of fish. Make sure to spread the fast days out during the week, so they are not consecutive. Mosley preferred Monday, Thursday, but changes them if he has a social engagement that would interfere with this plan.

He did the 5 2 diet, and lost 14 lbs in 5 weeks, 20 lbs in 9 weeks, decreased his blood sugar by 50%, significantly decreased cholesterol and visceral fat. 27% body fat to 19.1%. IGF1 dropped by 50% (same as on the 4 day fast) which reduces the risk for 7 cancers. He was very pleased with the results, and found the diet very easy to stick to, because he knew when he was fasting, the next day would have no restrictions. Minimal will power required! So pleased that he wrote the book, The Fast Diet to explain it all.

One difference of intermittent fasting, compared to regular calorie reduced diets, is the weight loss is almost exclusively fat. Calorie reduced diets you typically lose 75 percent fat 25 percent muscle.

Mosley admits, they need to do more research on humans, and that this may not work for everyone. Fasting is the first thing he has come across that could possibly radically change the path of America when it comes to the reduction of health issues including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and obesity. And it is absolutely free!


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