Having reported at the beginning of the year how publishers were racing to get books out about the fasting diet also known as the 5:2 diet, the past few weeks have seen a flurry of newly published dieting tomes.
And it seems newspapers – many of whom are suffering from a lack of investigative journalism due to not wanting to rock the boat with Press Regulation – have discovered a new way of guaranteed readers. That is the diet feature… and in particular the fasting diet feature which is generally plastered somewhere across the front page to entice people to read about it.
In case you’ve been under a rock recently, this diet involves cutting back drastically on what you eat for two days a week (500 calories for women and 600 for men on these days) while eating normally (or not that normally depending on which book you read on the subject) on the other five days.
Presumably anything about losing weight is a sure-fire success to ratings because not only has the Daily Mail run its own Two-Day diet, but the Mail on Sunday has been championing its Fast Diet – updating it with a new recipe book – and the Daily Mirror seems to have had a constant stream of variations of the same theme (ergo it clearly boosts sales of that paper.) In fact, a variation on this ‘starve one day, eat the next’ has appeared in virtually every national newspaper and magazine – and more than once over a few months. Not only that but despite no long term scientific evidence involving humans, it has been credited with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and even preventing cancer.
But what concerns me about this fast diet is the fact that people still won’t be educated about the food they are eating. It is only by understanding why it is you have put on weight that you can truly, long-term, address it.
I would worry people are not getting enough vitamins. I am sure if you follow this diet to the letter, then you will be. But how many people do that in the long-term?
Until now I believed I was the only person on the planet who thought this fast diet looked worrying. But not so. Thankfully some common sense advice has now arrived, courtesy of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute who have warned denial of food can lead to people missing out on vital vitamins and minerals. For example, many people are already fail to consume enough calcium and iron – without then starving themselves for two days a week.
As well as a danger on non fasting days people might over indulge (and I presume fall of the wagon eventually big-style by becoming a binger) their spokesperson adds: “It’s a fad. It’s not the worst fad, but there haven’t been any long-term studies to show if people can follow it for a year or two years.”
I would imagine you would have to be a very disciplined sort of person to keep on fasting for two days a week. And until future long term data becomes available, the problem is denying yourself food on a regular basis could be having some sort of unwanted effect on our bodies we don’t yet know about.
However, as a way of making money for authors and publishers – and filling the gaps in our national press that once, before Leveson, were filled with investigative exclusives – the fast diet has proved extremely successful.