THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE 5:2 FAST DIET
The 5:2 Fast Diet is believed to improve the health and function of the brain and heart along with other organs. You are also less likely to develop certain types of cancers and more likely to increase your longevity. Fasting is a type of hormesis, a process whereby organisms exposed to low levels of stress or toxins become more resistant to tougher challenges. For example, the mild biological stress induced by fasting causes cells in the heart and gut to produce proteins that decrease heart rate and blood pressure and increase gut mobility which is the movement of food through the gut. This reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. It really does seem to be a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Tests in the lab show that intermittent fasting decreases insulin resistance. Combined with the reduction in weight associated with intermittent fasting, there is a reduction in the risk for type 2 diabetes. There is also evidence that your chances of developing certain other diseases whilst following the 5:2 fast diet are reduced, particularly when keeping to a Mediterranean-style diet for the non-fasting days.
Intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction is effective for not just weight loss but will contribute to a healthier heart. Research conducted on mice and rats also showed that those that were put through the fasting regimen that had been genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s disease did not show signs of dementia until they were around 20 months of age, close to the natural end of their lives, in comparison to 12 months when not placed on the on/off fast. The reason which is believed to be behind this is that the fasting mouse brain produces more of a protein called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which stimulates the growth of new nerve cells in the hippocampus part of the brain, essential for learning and memory. There’s certainly an evolutionary logic for the fasting state to be linked with better cognitive function. If you were hungry in caveman days, you needed your wits about you to track down the next meal and survive.
IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1, which is known to be associated with cancer, is significantly reduced whilst fasting and appears to stimulate genes that repair our cells. Many 5:2 eaters say their low-calorie intake makes them feel more clear-headed, more able to concentrate and even more cheerful. This feel good factor is one of the advantages to also eating less as we often turn to food as a source of comfort when feeling down.
Once you’ve reached the weight you’re happy with, you will more than likely want to incorporate it into your life long term, as well as an active lifestyle. When long term studies in to intermittent fasting emerge, as they undoubtedly will, the optimal way to continue intermittent fasting so that you can maximize any health benefits and keep your weight maintained will almost certainly become more apparent. For now, if no more weight loss is required, then fasting for one day per week will maintain your desired weight. You could even possibly keep to the 5:2-diet and perhaps creep up to 700 calories on both the fasting days. Keeping to this lifestyle will most certainly improve your health physically and mentally for life!