The Science Behind The Fast Diet
There’s a new diet in town, and it’s
based on hard science. What’s more, a UK TV doctor, who is known to be a bit of a hypochondriac, invented it. He’s
been determined to optimise his health and well-being in recent years, and has been prepared to try out various
types of diet and medication under strict scientifically controlled conditions, helping viewers find out what works
and what doesn’t. It was his concern about his weight – specifically invisible fat around his internal organs –
that set him off on the trail of the perfect healthy weight loss diet. His name is Dr Mike Moseley. He doesn’t look
at all overweight, which made the results of his invisible fat levels, as measured by the experts, all the more
worrying. So what did he discover?
Fasting Is Good For
Contrary to all received wisdom about
eating breakfast and not skipping meals, it turns out that fasting really is good for the human body. Many major
religions and cultures have made a virtue of fasting, for reasons other than weight-loss. But it seems that there
is solid science behind why it may make us healthier in the long run. Dr Mosley visited a scientist who has been
studying the benefits of fasting for many years. He is Professor Valter Longo, the director of the University of
Southern California’s Longevity Institute. His research suggests that one of the links between fasting, health and
longevity is a hormone called ‘insulin-like growth factor 1’ (IGF-1) It is this hormone which keep our cells
active. This is fine when you’re growing up, but tends to lead to aging in later life. If we could ‘switch off’ the
production of IGF-1, all sorts of health benefits would follow.
Professor Longo has identified a
village in Ecuador where the inhabitants are immune to IGF-1. They haven’t grown very tall, and stand at about 4 ft
tall. But, they seem to be immune to cancer. Not a single villager with the deficiency has ever been reported as
suffering from the devastating disease. It is called Laron Syndrome, and it’s incredibly rare. Just 350 people worldwide are known to suffer from
it. Fasting is a fast track to limiting the production of the IGF-1 hormone, mimicking the syndrome, and
protecting the body at the same time. Fasting appears to switch on DNA repair genes too, suggesting that a
limited food intake switches the body from growth to repair mode.
Dr Moseley Tries The Fast
Dr Moseley tried fasting for a week, under the supervision of Professor Longo. By the
end of the week he had lost 2lbs of body fat, his blood glucose levels had fallen right down, and his IGF-1
levels had halved. However, mindful that he would be unable to sustain weeks of fasting, Dr Moseley then visited
Dr Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has developed the Alternate Day Fasting plan,
where you fast for two days out of seven (the 5:2 Diet), eating whatever you liked on the other. On fasting days
you can have 500 calories (women)/600 calories (men). Dr Moseley stuck with the diet and by the end of the trial
period had lost over a stone, had reduced his high blood glucose level to a normal level, and reduced his
cholesterol level to the point that he no longer needed medication to control it.
Tips For The Fasting
If you want to try out the fasting
diet, bear in mind the following:
- You eat whatever you want for five days of the week. Two days of that week you limit your calories to 500(Female)/600M(Male). If you want to split your
fasting day calorie intake to 250F/300M per meal, try having breakfast and dinner at first. A breakfast of
300 calories could be two scrambled eggs with ham, with water, green tea or black coffee. For a 300-calorie
lunch or dinner, you could eat grilled fish or meat with vegetables. Work out your calories carefully and
watch portion size. If you prefer to use diet whey shakes or other calorie measured foods on fasting days, it can be a good
way to stay on track at first.
- On ‘feeding’ days you can eat what you want to, but most dieters seemed to stick to the normal recommended
2000 calories (F)/2600 calories(M). There seemed to be little desire to gorge on high fat food to make up for
fast days, which helped with weight maintenance.