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New diet craze offers 5 days of feasting for 2 days of famine

| Sunday, June 16, 2013, 6:00 p.m.

LONDON — Forget abandoning carbohydrates or detoxing. The dieting craze sweeping Britain and 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. It allows people to eat what they want for five days but only 600 calories a day on the other two.

Their book, “The Fast Diet,” has topped best-seller lists in Britain and the United States this year and has been reprinted more than a dozen times.

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 regimen for a BBC television science program called “Eat, Fast, Live Longer” in August upon finding out his cholesterol level was too high and his blood sugar in the diabetic range. He was stunned by the results.

“I started doing intermittent fasting a year ago, lost 18 pounds of fat over three months, and my blood results went back to normal,” he said.

Mosley said he had been amazed at the way the diet had taken off with a list of websites set up by followers of the 5:2 diet or variations of the eating regimen to share their experiences.

With the success of “The Fast Diet,” Spencer joined forces with dietitian Sarah Schenker to bring out “The Fast Diet Recipe Book” in April, which has topped amazon.co.uk's food and drink list.

Eating a 600-calorie daily diet 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 a steady drop in weight with an average weekly loss of one pound for women and slightly more for men.

“The problem with standard diets is that you feel like you are constantly having to exercise restraint, and that means you are thinking about food all the time, which becomes self-defeating,” Mosley said.

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