Ever hear of the 5:2 diet? Here, two days per week you only consume 600 calories. Besides a bowl of broth, you don’t eat dinner for those two nights. It’s a small, mini-fast set to last between 14-18 hours. For the other five days, you eat as you normally would. Proponents say decreased appetite and more energy are the result. This diet is being proposed by Michael Mosley, British TV star and physician. Weight loss could be one benefit. But health experts say it may go beyond that. Besides more energy, it could help control glucose levels, sharpen memory and even boost immunity. For example, Women who were overweight and took part in the 5:2 diet, had better blood-sugar levels than those who counted calories all the time, a University of Manchester study found. One reason why the diet may be successful is that dieters feel less hungry the day after a mini-fast.
National Institute of Aging researcher Mark Mattson told NPR that when we do a mini-fast, glucose—the body’s basic fuel source is taken out of storage. Our system ramps up and starts burning fat. When the body is without food, it turns some of this fat into ketones which are known to help preserve memory, Mattson says. He is studying what effects such fasts have on memory and the mind. Other scientists are looking into how it affects the immune system. One reason scientists believe it stimulates our natural defenses, may be that a lack of nutrients makes our cells more resilient, and less likely to succumb to disease or injury. This diet is not for everyone. Anyone suffering from an eating disorder should not take part in the 5:2, for instance. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking of trying it. Experts say it’s easier to do with someone else. When you do eat during a fasting session, stay away from refined grains and simple sugars. These cause the blood sugar to spike and then drop, leaving you hungry. Eat foods high in protein or complex carbohydrates instead. Some hunger will have to be tolerated. Also there can be side effects like gastrointestinal problems and trouble sleeping.