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Dave asked...

What is your view on intermittent fasting?

Tags: Diet , Nutrition

What is the panels view on intermitent fasting as a way to lose a small amount of excess weight and as a lifestyle in general.. Much has been written about it recently saying its a great way to reduce insulin sensitivty amongst other things.

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The answer

This has been a subject of hot debate in recent years. For many years it has been known that very extreme diets are rarely effective in the long term. In the medium term, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’ – you may feel very tired and irritable as your metabolism slows down. Dehydration can lead to headaches and constipation and you’re likely to burn muscle rather than fat. In the long term, it’s highly unlikely that you will have learnt to avoid the eating behaviour that made you overweight in the first place, and most people who lose weight on ‘crash diets’ put the weight on again very quickly. Intermittent fasting covers a wide variety of eating patterns – one option suggested in recent years is the ‘one meal a day only’ option, which can increase your risk of heart disease if you eat enough calories to maintain your weight. However, there has been a better response from the medical community to the ‘5:2 diet’, in which you eat a balanced diet on 5 days a week and a very low calorie diet (500 calories a day for women, 600 for men) on the other two. The theory is that this is more sustainable than a crash diet; may improve your insulin sensitivity; and is less likely to lead to nutritional deficiencies. Once you’ve lost the weight you want to, you can maintain your weight by cutting down to the same low calorie level on just one day. However, it only works if you don’t take it as a license to eat unhealthily on the other days, and is less likely to cause side effects if you make up most of your 500-600 calories with fruit and vegetables.

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