Forget about banning carbs or fat. The new dieting craze sweeping Britain and now taking off in the United States lets people eat whatever they like - but only five days a week.
"The Fast Diet", also known as the 5:2 diet, is the brainchild of TV medical journalist Michael Mosley and journalist Mimi Spencer and allows people to eat what they want for five days but only eat 600 calories a day on the other two.
Mosley said the diet is based on work by British and U.S. scientists who found intermittent fasting helped people lose more fat, increase insulin sensitivity and cut cholesterol, which should mean reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.
He tried this eating regime for a BBC television science program called "Eat, Fast, Live Longer" last August after finding out his cholesterol level was too high and his blood sugar in the diabetic range. He was stunned by the results: he lost 18 pounds of fat over 3 months and his blood results went back to normal.
Eating a 600 calorie daily diet - about a quarter of a normal healthy adult's intake - could consist of two eggs for breakfast, grilled chicken and lettuce for lunch, and fish with rice noodles for dinner with nothing to drink but water, black coffee or tea.
Mosley put the diet's success down to the fact it is psychologically attractive and leads to steady drop in weight with an average weekly loss of 1 pound (0.46 kg) for women and slightly more for men. On this regime you diet only two days a week.
Britain's National Health Service (NHS) initially expressed doubts about the diet and its long-term effects, saying side effects could include sleeping difficulties, bad breath, irritability, anxiety, and daytime sleepiness.
But as the popularity of the 5:2 diet has grown and become one of the most searched diets on the Internet, the NHS has started to look again at the diet and its effects.
On its website last month the NHS said the British Dietetic Association (BDA) reviewed a 2011 study by researchers at the UK's University Hospital of South Manchester that suggested intermittent fasting could help lower the risk of certain obesity-related cancers such as breast cancer.
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