Michael Mosley did a one hour documentary for Horizon (BBC) in which the 5:2 diet emerges as a clear favourite from a series of diets involving calorie restriction.
Calorie restriction has been known for some time now as having positive effects on health and longevity. It is only recently that evidence has emerged linking calorie restriction to a reduction in levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor – 1 (IGF-1). With a normal diet, levels of IGF-1 are high, causing cells to multiply faster. Calorie restricted diets cause the cells to multiply at a slower pace, allowing to repair the DNA.
Imagine you take a document, and make a photocopy, then a copy of that copy, etc. After some time, what will happen to the quality ? This is what happens to your DNA if levels of IGF-1 are kept artificially high, as in modern life, where it is easy to eat every time we are hungry.
Artificially high ? By this I mean that most of our ancestors did not have access to regular food supplies, but rather went through cycles of famine and feasting, although they were probably able to maintain supplies to allow small rations of food on famine days, much like the 500/600 calories of the 5:2 diet. Its not surprising that our DNA improves under similar conditions.
Don’t forget that DNA handles many functions in the body, such as creation of proteins, enzymes, and other stuff our bodies need, so which DNA do you think will be healthier ?
There are several ways to restrict calorie intake, but the 5:2 diet is the simplest and easiest to follow. If you can handle just one day on about half a meal for the whole day then you can do the 5:2 diet for as long as you like. After all you only need to do one day at a time, and once you have done it once, you can do it again, and again, and again. In my experience it just gets easier over time.
Villagers in Ecuador suffering from the extremely rare Laron syndrome in which they cannot produce IGF-1 have shown an immunity to diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as exceptional longevity.
The 5:2 diet is the minimum calorie restriction required to lower IGF-11 enough to trigger your cells into “repair mode” and most of us trying the diet report feeling more energetic, fitter and healthier. This means the benefits are immediate as well as mid and long term. Weight loss can take some time before being noted, but as the diet is so easy to stick to, this diet is most likely to maintain results over time.