The New Diet Craze: 5-2 Fasting Diet

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When news of the Paleo diet came out, I thought, “great, what will they come up with next”? Well the newest diet fad is here. If you are one of the 45 million Americans addicted to dieting (yes, just another addiction), then here it is: the 5-2 Fasting Diet. http://mailer.eatright.org/t/19122/1454404/26528/65/

How does it work? Well you eat whatever you desire for 5 days and then fast for 2 days.

As a dietitian that gets asked daily how to lose weight, here are my thoughts on the issue. First of all, I live in the healthiest state in the nation, which isn’t saying much with an obesity rate of almost 1 out of 5 people (18.7%) according to the recently released Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report from 2012. The heaviest states in the nation include West Virginia (33.5% – 1 out of 3 people), Mississippi (32.2%), Arkansas (31.4%), Louisiana (30.9%), and Alabama (30.4). The obesity rate in these states did not go over 30% because they ate what they wanted ONLY 5 days a week. These people did not gain weight overnight either. The constantly creeping weight has been an issue that has been reported on since 1984 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)).

Second, starving oneself or having a very reduced dietary intake (250-300 calories per day) for two days may result in an individual overeating the other 5 days to compensate for the 2 day fast. In addition the side effects of fasting include headaches, fatigue, irritability, and hunger (obviously). Fasting also induces a state of starvation where the body becomes “confused” about when the next meal will be coming and begins to hold on to every calorie consumed, storing calories for a “rainy day” when food is not available, in other words the opposite of the desired effect (weight loss).

A better way to lose weight is to reduce total calorie intake by 10-30%, while eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart healthy fats. A recent study published in 2012 reported that calorie restricted diets lowered the incidence of age-related diseases like diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and brain atrophy2. This type of weight loss strategy is most effective because it prevents “malnutrition due to lack of vitamins, minerals or essential biomolecules”. Furthermore, a calorie restricted diet can be sustained in the long-term, allowing an individual a greater chance of success of maintaining weight loss over time.

1. Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index. http://www.gallup.com/poll/160892/coloradans-least-obese-west-virginians-third-year.aspx. Accessed March 15, 2013. 2. Ribaric, S. Diet and Aging. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012;2012:741468, pg 3.