Friday, August 10, 2012

Eat, Fast and Live longer

I watched a fantastic program this week on BBC2 - Horizon - Eat, Fast and Live Longer. Michael Moseley went to the US to have a look at some of the cutting edge research on food and how limiting calories can have a big impact on many health factors such as cholesterol, body-fat levels and ultimately some of the most common cancers. It highlighted a number of different types of "diet" (and by that I mean a way of eating rather than a crash diet). Examples were
- A long term (i.e >10 years) low calorie diet. The guy who had been on this diet, who was over 50, was tested for some of the main health factors and had a considerably lower risk of cancer (and other diseases) than Moseley who was of similar age.
- A diet where you must fast completely for four days per month. Moseley did this and even after one round of this some of the health factors showed a big decrease. Research had shown that the decrease was cumulative over time in other patients.
- A 5 plus 2 diet - where you eat totally normally for five days per week and have a low calorie (600 calories or less than a third of the normal amount) for the other two days. Again, Moseley did this diet for a few months and his risk factors had decreased by 50%.

Where there was a reduction in health based on these diets there has been a huge decrease in the amount of pharmaceutical drugs people have to take to manage their health. This doesn't surprise me at all.

I mention this because I've always had a huge interest in diet and health and it seemed to be even more evidence that how we eat has such a big influence on whether we get some types of cancers or not. I think I probably could do the '5 plus 2' diet as I have serious will power. However, I also think that reduction of calories or a consistently reasonable amount of calories particularly as we get older, goes a long way to keeping us healthy.
I also think, like everything, it is a choice. I see these things more in black and white now than I dud before I was sick. If you want to be healthy and reduce your risk of illness, then look after yourself. If not, then don't. You need to make a choice and stick to it. Of course there are no guarantees but by taking responsibility for your health you reduce your risk. I urge everybody to make the right choice - while at the same time being completely open to freedom of choice - or "freedom to shoot yourself in the foot" as I like to say. I have made the choice but still want to avoid some of the extremes that Moseley demonstrated - back to balance.  However, it has made me think even more about ensuring I don't eat ever too much. I think this is a small price to pay.

34 comments:

debbiag said...

I was very impressed with the programme Eat, Fast and Live Longer. I have always felt that occasional fasting was beneficial to health. Reducing calories to 600 a day for two days a week doesn't sound difficult and if the health benefits are so good, it's almost a no-brainer. But neither the programlme nor the Horizon website gives any information about following a programme like this. Is there any guidance? If the programme team are reading this blog, can you offer any links please? Have any GPs taken an interest in this approach ?

Neil Lees said...

I too was intrigued by the programme and have started the 5:2 fasting regime. However, one thing mentioned, but sadly not developed, was the potentially negative effect of eating protein. I would like to know if on the two fasting days protein should be avoided and if so does this mean eating it during the rest of the week is fine? Many thanks for any additional advice that anyone can provide.

Monkey said...

I thought the programme hugely interesting it caught my husbands attention and he is hoping to eat one day and fast the next - my only problem was the lack of information on the protein sid eof things as I have in the past lost wight by eating just protein which also gave me 2 insights to the future (overdosed on soya leithin instead on 3 teaspoons a day I was taken 3 heaped tablespoons - I was a bit like nostradamus not knowing what i was seeing until it happened and in another country so it wasn't that I could have done it before ) anyway i have been searching for 4 of 6 episode thinking that you were continuing with the same theme but alas not - everyone I know is talking about your programme - please give us more and more about eating protein.

John Haren said...

I think the program deliberately did not provide information about following programs like this as most were only at the research stage. As a result it would be seen as inappropriate to promote something which, potentially, could be dangerous for many people. I seem to remember them suggesting that if this is something you are interested in then you should discuss with your GP. But because this is only at research stage, your GP may simply not be familiar with the approaches so may advise you about more standard approaches.
Worth also noting that it is not so easy to fast. I just watched the Horizon program 'The truth about fat' (from March) and the doctor who fasted for 24 hours confirmed a big swing in mood over the period. That may be easy to do once but I'd imagine it might put one's family in a stressful position if it went on forever :)

Mose said...

I tried the two and the half day fasting effort, only one green tea and water.

My blood pressure went right up as did my glucose and fasting glucose!!

So be careful.

zxkl said...

I watched the program then did a search on You tube and web "intermittent fasting" found lots of videos and a book to download called 'eat stop eat', It covers all the research that has been done over the years (and there is a lot) and is worth a read.
I am in my 50s need to loose a bit of weight and would like to feel healthier without dieting so I gave it a go and fasted two times last week. I ate breakfast and then drank only water till the following breakfast 24 hours no food. Didn't get ratty, didn't feel hungry (just bored) had a mild headache the first time, I have read that this is due to caffeine withdrawl and it hasn't happened since.
I do like a social life which involves some wine and beer, by taking two days off eating my weight is going down and I do feel healthier so I am continuing with fasting twice a weak. Hope this helps.

Jay Robinson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Robinson said...

This is a copy and paste paragraph form BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19112549

'As well as cutting calories you have to cut your protein intake. Not entirely - that would be a very bad idea. It's about sticking to recommended guidelines, something most of us fail to do.

So do NOT cut out protein altogether.

Jay Robinson said...

This is a copy and paste paragraph form BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19112549

'As well as cutting calories you have to cut your protein intake. Not entirely - that would be a very bad idea. It's about sticking to recommended guidelines, something most of us fail to do.

So do NOT cut out protein altogether.

Unknown said...

The 5:2 fast, do the 2 days need to be together or can I do a Tuesday and Thursday for example?

And on the fast days - the 600 calories he ate, does that need to be in the one meal or can you have 600 calories over that day? I was thinking of splitting it to 200 and 400.

Neill Ryan said...

Yet another BRILLIANT programme from Horizon - Michael Moseley is such a likeable chap. For me the evidence was so compelling that I didn't hesitate to give it a go. I had my first 600 calorie day yesterday and it doesn't seem like a great effort for all the benefits. Don't really understand how anyone could be sceptical.

Neill Ryan said...

I was thinking the same... I think that if you had a little breakfast and then some dinner later with a 200/400 split that's got to be fine hasn't it?

John Haren said...

I seem to remember Moseley saying that the 600 calories should be taken in one meal but the meal could be taken at any time of the day - Breakfast, lunch or dinner.

John Galbraith said...

I don't think it matters as long as men stick to the 600 cals/day and women to the 500/day

John Haren said...

One of the difficulties I have with the idea of 600 calories a day for two days per week is to do with exercise. I run three times per week, about three miles each time. Even if I avoided running on the days of the calories restriction (as I don't think I'd have enough energy to run) I think I would really struggle as I am always more hungry the day after I run anyway. This goes back to the idea of balance for me. Exercise is very important for us and to have both regular exercise and a restricted diet may be a step too far (for me anyway). This is why I think the best way for me is to manage my diet (meaning not overeating calorie-wise) while still exercising. Would be interested to hear other views in relation to "Eat, Fast and live longer" and regular exercise.

spirulina said...

This is my second day, went to Pilates this morning no breakfast wasn't hungry had salad with chicken and strawberries kept to 500calories headache and feel tired! Not hungry but haven't lost any weight but will try for five weeks. I did have a boss once who just drank water all day dinner of 600 calories one day a week and looked great, he was 50 said he'd been doing it for last 10 years. So maybe one day a week would be just as beneficial .

Elly Davis said...

It's not about losing weight for me, it's much more about disease prevent and the things it lowers in your body (of course the names of them all escape me now).

I think I will stick to up to 600 calories in the one meal. Evening probably and on days I don't go to the gym. I do some aerobic classes and I think bounding around a room on a nearly 24 empty stomach might be asking for it.

Does anyone know if the 2 days need to be consecutive?

-Elly

John Haren said...

The two days per week don't have to be consecutive according to the program. I think that should make it easier to manage.

Stanley Watts said...

Someone mentioned the book "Eat Stop Eat" above. In that, the author started his fasting at 6pm and didn't eat till 6pm the next day, ensuring he fasted for two 24hr periods over the week, but at the same time allowing himself dinner every night. I thought that was a good achievable way to go about it and have been trying it... Two weeks in. so far so good!

Gillian Fifield said...

My husband and I tried fasting for two days and had no side affects. Strangely we did not feel at all hungry the first day so splitting the days in the week would probably work for us. My main concerns are 1) that the research is not yet published and 2) whether you would get the improvements if you already have a sensible diet with low blood sugar and cholesterol. I did lose some weight which was a bonus.

jcuk42 said...

According to Mike Mosley's article in the Daily Telegraph, it doesn't matter if you spilt up your calories. He did and he got the results. I'm a splitter and it saves me being a quitter!

Carole

Anne Grace said...

l thought the program very interestng,the primive way was similar, an animal was not availible daily, therefore you fasted ie with mealys(corn on the cob etc,) on quite a few days until the next kill.

Matt Bird - Investment Blog said...

I didn't see the programme but it does sound very interesting. Eating less calories would be beneficial for most people i'm sure. Fasting though sounds dangerous, especially for 2/3 days.

Your body needs vitamins and minerals and tablets are no real substitute for that. Fasting is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Reasearch has shown that muslim women who take part in ramadan (fast) whilst pregnant have a much higher rate of birth defect than normal, and they are fasting for only half a day.

A low calorie, balanced diet is probably the best option and probably much easier to stick to than one where you fast.

I remember Des O'Connor saying that he only ate two meals a day, breakfast and dinner. He looks pretty good on that for 80!!!

John Cousins said...

Very Interesting programme on BBC Horizon pertaining to fasting as part of an eating regime. While informative, there were some gaps in information pertaining to those who run/jog (I used to run frequently when younger, I am now 55) particularly athletes, as the programme never mentioned how they should manage their diet to obtain the health benefits and still maintain fitness. Add to that the very important comment from the programme that stated too much protein was the real danger (hence the reason I suppose for all the general advice found elsewhere about cutting down on red meat etc), and this is exactly what athletes consume lots of, protein.
We learned that the average man needs 2000-2500c per day (except on fast days), but I learned from the Olympic coverage that some athletes would consume 6000c/day, I can’t imagine them achieving gold medals on a 5-2 diet(5days non-fasting and 2 days fasting) or any type of fasting regime; I suppose it’s early days in the research and what will probably come out of all of this is that you probably can’t have it all ways.
A thought though, if an athlete's body is using that amount of food rather than passing as waste (carbohydrates for energy, and proteins to build muscle) one might think that one’s body is acting very efficiently and therefore this regime must be good for you, one certainly feels great when running regularly, as I did. That said, the molecular machinery that digests the food into the various constituents the body needs, if it has to work three times as hard because one is an athlete, there surely must be a down side to that. A car that is driven faster and for longer compared to the average vehicle, on a weekly basis, doesn’t last as long. I noticed that all the people who were on calorie restriction diets including the professors studying the subject were all thin, there was not an athletic looking person amongst them. Maybe what we in the West perceive as someone who looks healthy (fit, muscular) maybe doesn't bring longevity; muscle for our hunter gatherer forebears perhaps was not designed for longevity, but for success in the imediate fight for survival.

Roo said...

I fast on Mondays. Long run on a Sunday Morning (at the moment about 12 miles but anything up to 20 depending on what I am training for). Big Sunday lunch (minus the meat as I am a veggie) then no food til Tuesday breakfast.

This is what helps me:

1. It is best to try and have at the very least a brisk walk first thing and maybe ten minutes at every mealtime otherwise you get a bit drowsy and sluggish.

2. Your body gets hungry at mealtimes, but after that time has passed it is fine.

3. Tuesdays - a Banana or two helps you to get back into the swing of things without over eating.

If I go out and run a Marathon I will get up, have a banana or something then run for hours without food, your body adjusts easily and probably more easily if it is used to having a limited calorie intake occasionally.

Hope that helps a bit.

Roo said...


I fasted, ran 20-30 miles a week, swam, hiked and rode a horse throughout both my pregnancies and other than being somewhat large (9lb 11 and 8lb 1) both my kids appear to be fine. I didn't marry my own cousin though.

Children in Uganda born 9 months after Ramadan were 22% higher rates of birth defect although perhaps women in Uganda are more likely to be in poor health even before Ramadan?

More than 90% of birth defects occur in areas of poverty throughout the world.

Statistics of Birth Defects: http://www.marchofdimes.com/aboutus/15796_18678.asp

Elly Davis said...

@Matt Bird Said "I didn't see the programme but it does sound very interesting. Eating less calories would be beneficial for most people i'm sure. Fasting though sounds dangerous, especially for 2/3 days.

Your body needs vitamins and minerals and tablets are no real substitute for that. Fasting is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Reasearch has shown that muslim women who take part in ramadan (fast) whilst pregnant have a much higher rate of birth defect than normal, and they are fasting for only half a day.

A low calorie, balanced diet is probably the best option and probably much easier to stick to than one where you fast."

But that's just it Matt it doesn't have the same effect. The fasting sets in motion repair of cells rather than division and new cells. It's that which affects the levels of things (I forget the names) that influence the chances of getting certain diseases. He had those levels tested before and after numerous times in the programme. Fasting isn't dangerous if it's a day here and there. And it he says in the programme that you should do it if pregnant. The beneficial effect on the brain is rather profound too. Something I did not expect to see.

It's not really fasting anyway as you can have 600 calories which on a day flanked by normal days isn't going to do you any harm. Besides you can certainly get nutrients in those 600 calories.

Someone has uploaded it to YT. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pfna7nV7WaM I've downloaded it so I can watch it again.

ezy-pc CoMpUteRs MaDe EaSy said...

I am a 39 year old male overweight (about 20lb)

I have been fasting (600 cal one evening meal) Monday Wednesday and Friday for the last 3 week and lost 6lb the other days I eat what I want (thats the great thing about this diet). I normally would refrain most of the time yet still end up being naughty, its enough for me to gain around 6-8lb a year (I then have to take action)

I think its so easy, my meal are set too

Monday I have a homemade veg soup

Wednesday I have scrambled egg mushrooms ham and salad

Friday I have baked potato, tuna with spring onion (no mayo, just vinegar and pepper) and salad

I look forward to these meals and are always left satisfied.

I have found the fasting very easy and it works for me as I work in an office all day. I feel like I have more energy and can't see at this point why I would stop. I will reduce my days to 2 when I reach my ideal weight but I am convinced this is a great thing to do if exercise is not high on your priorities.

Once I lose the weight I think I will be more active too.

daze said...

The Prophet of Islam Muhammed used to fast Monday and Thursday for spiritual reasons, back in the seventh century. Many religions recommend fasting of some form. My grandparents used to fast two days a week as well. Living in Bangladesh they died of preventable diseases due to poor access to health care. My grandfather died of gangrene infection but my gran lived till 100. I will definitely try and revive this tradition with my family again, thanks to this programme. My teenage daughters want to do it too. They have fasted well during the month of Ramadan just gone.

alpder said...

I think you have to be careful about following things when there is not much long term research on humans. Look at this article from 2009 which pretty much says the opposite about IGF-1:
http://www.ironmanmagazine.com/anti-aging-research/

There is a lot of conflicting info and advice out there

Elly Davis said...

I need some advice here.

I have a bit of an abnormal day pattern in that I work through the night. I did my first 'fast' day on Thurs but I'm worried that I didn't do it long enough to trigger the cell repair stage.

5am Wednesday - sandwich and to bed

9:30pm Thursday - 500 calorie meal

5am Friday - sandwich and to bed

I've concerned I'm doing it wrong, not long enough mainly and that all I'll end up doing is having a couple of low calorie days. Any advice would be much appreciated. I plan on my next 'fast' day being Tuesday.

Peter Williams said...

Like many other commentators here, my wife and I were very impressed with the programme. Michael Moseley is an excellent presenter - he takes everything so personally. As a result, both of us started the 2:5 diet, choosing every Monday and Tuesday to be simple 600 days. We've been doing this for the past three months or so and I've gone from 80Kg 24% fat to 74kg, 17.7% fat and it's proved surprisingly easy. We also stick to around 1300 calories or so on the remaining days of the week but we're not particularly hung up about it and if we end up eating more, c'est la vie. My wife has dropped from 60Kg to 56Kg in the same period. I suspect that we'll simply stick to this now ad infinitum, it really isn't that difficult and oddly, we do sort of look forward to the 600 days. There's a sort of pleasant feeling of frugality about those days.

For the remaining days I recommend the hairy dieters book - the food is relatively low in calories and it's really, really tasty. We must have tried a dozen or so of the recipes now and every single one has been first class. Being constrained in the amount of food that one eats has led us to be far more creative in our cooking. So far it's all been win-win.

Stephen Jones said...

I have followed a 5:2 fasting regime since watching that horizon show and split the two fasting days over any 2 days I'm not working have a small meal around 6 pm then eat again 6 pm the next day over the last 10 weeks I've gone from 16 stone to 14 stone and feel so healthy and have no big cravings or hunger, the show has changed my life so glad I happened to catch it on the telly by chance, for exercise I walk briskly several times a week between 3 and 6 miles

Jeff said...

Here's the vid, if you haven't seen it:
http://leangainsguide.com/diet/igf-1-and-fasting/